Dorothy Iannone

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Dorothy Iannone
Born(1933-08-09)August 9, 1933
DiedDecember 26, 2022(2022-12-26) (aged 89)
Known forPainter

Dorothy Iannone (August 9, 1933 – December 26, 2022) was an American visual artist.[1] Her autobiographical texts, films, and paintings explicitly depict female sexuality and "ecstatic unity."[2] She lived and worked in Berlin, Germany.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Iannone was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 9, 1933.[3][1] Her father died when she was two years old and she was raised by her mother Sarah Nicoletti Iannone, later Sarah Pucci.[4] She graduated from Boston University in 1957 with a B.A. in American Literature. She went on to study English literature at the graduate level at Brandeis University. In 1958 she married the painter James Upham and the couple moved to New York City.[2] The following year, Iannone taught herself to paint alongside her husband.[citation needed] Between 1963 and 1967 she exhibited with her husband at the Stryke Gallery, an exhibition space she ran with her husband in New York and traveled frequently to Europe and Asia.[citation needed] In 1961 the U.S. Customs at the Idlewild Airport in Queens, New York seized her book The Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller she was traveling with and which was banned at the time.[2] Iannone sued the U.S. Customs with assistance from the New York Civil Liberties Union, which caused her book to be returned and the ban on Miller to be lifted.[2]


The majority of Iannone's paintings, texts, and visual narratives depict themes of erotic love.[2] Her explicit renderings of the human body draw heavily from the artist's travels and from Japanese woodcuts, Greek vases, and visual motifs from Eastern religions, including Tibetan Buddhism, Indian Tantrism, and Christian ecstatic traditions like those of the seventeenth-century Baroque.[5] Her small wooden statues of celebrities with visible genitals, including Charlie Chaplin and Jacqueline Kennedy, especially display with the artist's interest in African tribal statues.[2]

The explicit nature of Iannone's work frequently fell foul of censors in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.[2] The artist said of the early censorship of her work: "When my work was not censored outright, it was either mildly ridiculed or described as folkloric, or just ignored."[2] In 1969 the Kunsthalle Bern tried to censor Iannone's work in the group exhibition Ausstellung der Freunde by requesting that she cover up the genitals of her figures.[6] In protest Dieter Roth dropped out of the exhibition and the curator of the Kunsthalle Bern, Harald Szeeman, resigned.[6] Iannone recalled the experience in the Fluxus publication The Story of Bern or Showing Colors (1970).[citation needed]

Iannone's first solo exhibition in the United States, Lioness, was held at the New Museum in 2009.[6] Her work was featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions across Europe throughout her career, and recently a substantial number of her works were collected in Dorothy Iannone: You Who Read Me With Passion Now Must Forever Be My Friends.[citation needed]

Partnership with Dieter Roth[edit]

On a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1967, Iannone met the Swiss artist Dieter Roth.[2] Iannone separated from her husband one week later.[2] Iannone lived with Roth in Düsseldorf, Reykjavik, Basel, and London until 1974.[7] Roth became Iannone's muse and features in much of her artwork. His nickname for her was "lioness."[2] One of her most noted works involving Roth is her book An Icelandic Saga (1978–86), which vividly illustrates the artist's first encounter with Roth and her subsequent breakup with her husband in the vein of a Norse myth.[8] She also created paintings of her and Roth in sexual union as historical couples. For instance, I Am Whoever You Want Me To Be (1970) and I Begin To Feel Free (1970) reference both Antony and Cleopatra as well as brightly colored African tribal imagery.[citation needed] Iannone and Roth remained friends until his death in 1998.[7]


Iannone died on December 26, 2022, at the age of 89.[9]


Public collections[edit]


  1. ^ a b Iannone, Dorothy (American installation artist, born 1933). Union List of Artist Names Online. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Trust. Accessed May 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rosenberg, Karen. "An Iconoclast Who Valorizes the Erotic and Ecstatic" The New York Times, Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Dorothy Iannone this sweetness outside of time. Berlin: Berlinische Galerie, Museum für Moderne Kunst. 2014. p. 152. ISBN 9783866789241.
  5. ^ From a press release for "Dorothy Iannone. This Sweetness Outside of Time. Retrospective 1959–2014," Berlinische Galerie, Berlin.
  6. ^ a b c Gregory, Jarrett. "Dorothy Iannone: Lioness" New Museum, Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Eichler, Dominic. "Dorothy Iannone" Archived April 15, 2014, at the Wayback Machine Frieze Magazine, Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  8. ^ "Dorothy Iannone" The Whitney Biennial, Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  9. ^ American Artist Dorothy Iannone, Who Made Joyful Work About Female Pleasure, Desire, and Power, Has Died at 89
  10. ^ "What's On: Innocent and Aware" Camden Arts Centre, Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  11. ^ "Artists’ Books of Dorothy Iannone – An Exhibition at the NY Art Book Fair." Archived February 14, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Printed Matter, Retrieved February 13, 2017.

External links[edit]