Willem de Kooning's 1955 painting "Woman-Ochre" was cut from its frame, ripped from its backing, rolled up and stolen was stolen from the University of Arizona Museum of Art on the day after Thanksgiving 1985. The painting was missing for more than 30 years before being discovered by the owners of an antiques store in New Mexico who immediately returned it to the museum.
Badly damaged in the heist, the painting now needs professional care. Through an agreement reached with the University of Arizona, paintings conservators at the J. Paul Getty Museum and research scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute will undertake technical study and conservation treatment of the painting. Conservators and scientists at the Getty will work together to study, repair, clean, conserve and document the painting. This will include reuniting it with the original frame, as well as repairing and restoring remnants of the canvas that were left behind after the theft and retained by the UAMA since 1985. The project will take approximately a year beginning in April 2019. In summer of 2020, the painting will go on view at the Getty Museum before being returned to the UAMA.
Kooning was born in the Netherlands and moved to New York in 1926. He was one of the pioneers and leaders of the abstract expressionist movement, which began in New York after World War II. In 1950, de Kooning began his best-known body of work, his "Woman" series, which included "Woman-Ochre," completed in 1955. The series is considered monumental in the way that it imagines the human figure.