She is known all over the world as the painter of big eyes, but the American Margaret Keane has also gained fame for her unique personal story: in 1986, she took her ex-husband to court and condemned him for stealing the authorship of his works. The judges reached their verdict after testing them both, and Margaret proved in court that she could paint one of the famous portraits in just under an hour, while Walter Keane refused to take the brush in hand. With great courage, the artist, the true author of the works, proved to be the victim of a fraud and took back his life and his art. Thus ended, with the ex-husband’s condemnation, deceived by a man who for decades had taken his wife’s merits and success, forced to paint incognito without ever appearing in public.
Margaret Keane died on June 26 at the age of 94 for heart failure in Napa, California, bringing with it his unique style that has set the American art scene in motion since the 1960s, showing that art can truly be accessible, popular and universal. These portraits of boys and girls with big and sad eyes have in fact reached a huge popularity in a spontaneous way, without much recognition from the critics, but with a huge success with the public; her Andy Warhol he said “Well, if people like it so much, it means there has to be an artistic value … if you like it, it can not be bad”, and reaffirmed one of the principles of pop art, i.e. talent is not only certified from the academy, but can also find space in the supermarket with reproductions on posters and postcards. Margaret’s works, portraits of modest-looking children and women with large deep eyes, often full of nostalgia and sadnessfor years influenced mass culture, children’s releases, the world of cartooning (one above all, the Powerpuff Girls series created in 1998 by Craig McCracken).
A life dedicated to painting
Peggy Doris Hawkins, real name of Margaret Keane, was born in Nashville, Tenessee in 1927; immediately showed a great passion for drawing and its distinctiveness at the big eyes on portraits. Her works began circulating thanks to the advertising activity of her second husband, Walter Keane, but if the woman first accepted that paintings and drawings were presented in the man’s name, Margaret condemned the scam in 1979 until she appeared in Hawaii federal court. in 1986, forcing Walter Keane to compensate his ex-wife with $ 4 million in moral and material damages.
The portraits of the VIPs
Since then, the Nashville artist has continued to paint relentlessly and has also caught the attention of the American jet set: on the list of celebrities who asked her for a portrait, proudly displayed on the official website keane-eyes.com, John and Caroline Kennedythat San Francisco Mayor George Cristopherand then the actresses and actresses Natalie Wood, Kim Novak, Joan Xeawford, Jerry Lewis and his family, Dean Martin and Helena Bonham Carter. The portrait of Zsa Zsa Gabor was sold at auction on April 14, 2018 for $ 45,000.
The meeting with Tim Burton
And speaking of portraits, in the nineties the director Tim Burton Margaret commissioned the portrait of Lisa Marie, his partner between 1993 and 2001. A few years later, Burton himself signed the instruction on “Big eyes” about the unique artistic and personal story of Keane, played by Amy Adams: the film, which was not actually one of the American director’s masterpieces, helped to make Margaret’s story known all over the world and show these portraits with big sad eyes. But in recent years, the melancholy has disappeared from those gazes, leaving room for an expression of serenity and peace. “I like to make eyes – Margaret said shortly after the verdict that returned her works to her – I think I will always paint them”.