Second painting stolen from Watkins collection

Allison Mueller

Emily Dean/ Winonan

A large oil painting from the Watkins Art Collection was reported missing Jan. 20 from Somsen Hall.

The untitled 32×42-inch painting by Robert Pearson was donated to Winona State University in 1924 and has been hanging in the stairwell of Somsen for 30 years, according to Dean of Liberal Arts Ralph Townsend.

The painting was reported missing by Kathleen Peterson, Winona State’s art administrator, but the exact date of the disappearance is unclear.

Director of campus security Don Walski said there are disputes as to when the painting actually disappeared.

“Two people thought they saw it missing in late November and another person said she thought she saw it there in early December,”  Walski said.

Walski said the theft rate at Winona State is fairly low and this is not a usual occurrence.

Because of this event, Walski said there will be an increase of security camera and patrols around the area.

Walski encourages students to keep their eyes and ears out for any information about the painting.

“Most of our tips come from students and any bit of information will help us recover the painting,” Walski said.

Walski said if anyone has information it is best to report it right away to either campus security or the police.

Townsend said the painting is an important part of the university’s history and the university is working hard to maintain the artwork in the Watkins collection.

Townsend said the university has been in contact with Minnesota Arts Conservation Center to learn how to preserve and maintain an old collection of art such as the Watkins collection.

“Curiously, the next thing on our list was to secure the funds to clean and re-hang the 11 oil paintings in which this was one,” Townsend said. “It’s disappointing, since we were making plans to restore this particular painting.”

“We want our students to be exposed to a lot of different experiences including art,” Townsend said. “Our goal is to have art out where people can see it and enjoy it.  We don’t have a permanent art museum, and we have therefore tried to make the art available around campus.”

This is the second painting from the Watkins collection to disappear this year. A portrait of Paul Watkins was stolen from the Watkins Manor in late October and was later returned.