LOS ANGELES (AFP).- Veteran actor Ryan O'Neal defended Monday taking an Andy Warhol painting from the home of ex-lover Farrah Fawcett just after her 2009 death, as he gave evidence at a trial over the disputed canvas.
The 72-year-old said the portrait of Fawcett belonged to him, but he had left it at her home because his new girlfriend "was uncomfortable with Farrah staring at her" from the wall at his own home.
The University of Texas, where the "Charlie's Angels" star studied as a young woman, is suing O'Neal after the painting was spotted in the actor's home during an episode of reality TV show "Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals."
The university says Fawcett bequeathed all her artwork to her alma mater when she died, and it insists the Warhol painting should be displayed in a museum next to a near-identical portrait of the late actress.
O'Neal's lawyer says Warhol gave one portrait to Fawcett and the other to O'Neal.
On Monday the actor took the stand in Los Angeles, saying he removed the work from Fawcett's Wilshire Boulevard condominium shortly after she died of cancer on June 25, 2009, aged 62.
Asked if he had told anyone before taking it, he said: "I may have, I may not have." He added that it was not the only item he took. "I also took a pepper shaker with hot pepper," he said.
O'Neal said he kept the portrait at his Malibu home from 1980 to 1998, but loaned it to Fawcett from time to time, to take to exhibitions with her own copy.
But that changed after Fawcett caught him with another woman, when she let herself into his home in 1997.
"She was hurt, she was in shock," he said, adding that he subsequently asked Fawcett to take the painting and keep it for him.
"I asked her to keep the portrait with her, store it for me, because my young (girlfriend) was uncomfortable with Farrah staring at her," he told the court.
Fawcett was born in Texas and went to college there for three years, but left without graduating after being "discovered" and moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
But she remained loyal to her alma mater. "Farrah never forgot where she came from," the university's lawyer David Beck said when the trial opened last week.
While the university says the portrait is worth about $12 million, O'Neal's lawyer Martin Singer estimated its value at just under $1 million, adding: "The University of Texas should have been satisfied with what they got."
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse