Stolen Robert Motherwell Painting Returned After Forty Years

A 1967 Robert Motherwell painting, Untitled, that had been missing for forty years has been returned to the Dedalus Foundation. According to the New York Times, the artwork was one of dozens that disappeared when Motherwell hired a moving company to relocate his works from one storage site to another in 1978. 

The painting was discovered in a garage in upstate New York by a man whose late father had worked for the moving company. The man, whose name was not disclosed, had been helping his mother organize her belongings when he found the work. While inspecting the painting, he saw Motherwell’s signature on the back of the large canvas, which prompted him to reach out to the foundation.

Katy Rogers, director of the Robert Motherwell catalogue raisonné project, said that the man had hoped to sell the painting but agreed to return it once he learned the circumstances surrounding its disappearance. Authorities do not believe the son knew that the work had been stolen.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, revealed the 69-by-92-inch painting at a news conference on Thursday in Manhattan. The work has a few mold stains that will be removed but otherwise remains in good condition. Jack Flam, president of the Dedalus Foundation, said it was stored upright and wrapped in plastic. After Motherwell’s death in 1991, nearly all of his paintings were bequeathed to the foundation.