The reason is that it's been vandalized. A conservator is studying the damage. It could be beyond repair.
The painting is of the theater's namesake, actor Fredric March, a Racine native and alumnus of UW-Madison. He may be most remembered for The Best Years of Our Lives. The 1946 film won eight Academy Awards, including best actor for March.
The oil painting is a copy made by Adolfo Tagliaferri from a portrait by Umberto Romano. The original was a set piece for March's 1944 Broadway play A Bell for Adano, which landed the actor on the cover of Life magazine.
The Union cannot place a dollar amount on the painting's worth. It was donated by March's family in 1978. In mid-September someone used a paint-pen to place a blue mustache on it.
"It is a selfish act that denies students, faculty, staff, Union members and daily visitors the opportunity to enjoy that work of art," says Robin Schmoldt, Wisconsin Union art collection manager.
March also won an Oscar in 1932 for his dual role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. His films include A Star Is Born and Inherit the Wind, in which he played the role corresponding in real life to William Jennings Bryan. He died in Los Angeles in 1975, at the age of 77. A theater at UW-Oshkosh is also named for him.