An original oil portrait of one of Winona’s best-known businessmen has gone missing from Watkins Manor.
A 4-by-5-foot framed original oil painting of Paul Watkins was reported missing last Friday morning from Watkins Manor on Wabasha Street, now an assisted-living facility that Winona Health owns. The portrait was in the Watkins Manor chapel, and had a light attached to it.
The portrait is believed to have been taken sometime late last Thursday or early Friday morning, according to Karen Sibenaller, communications director with Winona Health. A member of the Manor’s housekeeping staff discovered the theft last Friday morning.
No estimated value has been given for the painting. It was created in 1920 by Carl Bohnen, a well-known Minnesota painter and printmaker in the first half of the 20th century who completed portraits of state luminaries including Charles Lindbergh, as well as the portraits of several Minnesota governors that hang in the state Capitol.
The missing painting is one of a set of two; the other is of Paul’s wife, Florence, Sibenaller said.
A door that is seldom used that goes out onto a courtyard was found ajar, Sibenaller said. Paper, presumed to be from the back of the painting, was found in that area. Nothing else was missing, and nothing was broken or vandalized inside the building.
Watkins residents do not need to be concerned about safety, Sibenaller said, though she added that Winona Health staff are concerned about the theft and have increased security throughout as a precaution.
Winona police are investigating, said deputy chief Tom Williams. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Winona Police Department at 507-457-6302.
Paul Watkins took over the Watkins Company from his uncle, J.R., in 1911 and built it into the largest direct-sales company in the world. He used some of the profits to build his Tudor-style manor house. Paul Watkins died in 1931, and Florence lived in the house until her death in 1956. The home was converted to a nursing home and, in 2001, became part of Winona Health.