The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Restored: The Return of Woman-Ochre

Willem de Kooning, Woman-Ochre, 1954–1955

October 8, 2022 – May 20, 2023

Painted by pioneer abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning in the mid-fifties and donated to the University of Arizona Museum of Art in 1958, Woman-Ochre was a beloved painting exhibited widely over the next three decades.

It disappeared from public view on November 29, 1985 – a fateful day when it was brazenly cut from its frame and stolen from the Museum. The painting’s whereabouts were unknown for almost thirty-two years, until August 2017 when it reappeared at an estate sale in the small town of Cliff, New Mexico.

This exhibition documents the incredible journey of Woman-Ochre, guiding visitors through the circumstances of its creation, acquisition by UAMA, theft and miraculous recovery. It concludes by detailing the painstaking restoration work done by conservation experts at The Getty Center.

Although the theft of Woman-Ochre is a sore spot in the painting’s history, it is only one part of an overall heartening journey. Now restored to its former glory in its rightful home, Woman-Ochre can continue to inspire for generations to come.


Image: Willem de Kooning, Woman-Ochre, 1954–1955, Oil on canvas, Gift of Edward J. Gallagher, Jr. © 2022 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York