Margaret Keane

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Margaret Keane
Margaret Keane.jpg
Margaret Keane with first husband Frank Ulbrich, painting names on neckties at a fair, 1953
Born Peggy Doris Hawkins
1927 (age 87–88)
Nashville, Tennessee
Other names Peggy Ulbrich, MDH Keane, Margaret McGuire
Occupation Artist
Religion Jehovah's Witnesses
Spouse(s) Frank Ulbrich,
Walter Keane (m. 1955; div. 1965),
Dan McGuire (m. 1970)
Children 1

Margaret D. H. Keane (born Peggy Doris Hawkins; 1927) is an American artist, who mainly paints women, children, and animals in oil or mixed media.

Early life[edit]

Margaret Keane was born in Tennessee. She was well known at the local church for her sketches of angels with big eyes and floppy wings.

Career and style[edit]

Keane's works are recognizable by the oversize, doe-like eyes of her subjects.[1]

In the 1960s her artwork was sold under the name of her husband, Walter Keane, who claimed credit for it. On November 1, 1964, she left him and moved from San Francisco to Hawaii, where she met Honolulu sports writer Dan McGuire. She divorced Keane in 1965, and married McGuire in 1970.[2]

In 1970, Keane announced to the world, via radio broadcast, that she was the true creator of the paintings.

When she sued Walter in federal court for slander, the judge famously ordered both Margaret and Walter to each create a big-eyed child painting there in the courtroom, in order to determine who was telling the truth. Walter declined, citing a sore shoulder, whereas she completed her painting in 53 minutes. After a three-week trial, the jury awarded her $4 million in damages.[3][1] A federal appeals court upheld the verdict of defamation in 1990, but overturned the $4 million damage award.[4]

The works Keane created while living in the shadow of her husband tended to depict sad-looking children in dark settings. Once she had left Walter Keane, moved to Hawaii, and become one of Jehovah's Witnesses, her work took on a happier, brighter style. Keane's website now advertises her work as having "tears of joy" or "tears of happiness".[5]

The actresses Joan Crawford and Natalie Wood commissioned Keane to paint their portraits.[6] [7] In the 1990s Tim Burton, a Keane artwork collector and later director of the film Big Eyes (about Keane), commissioned the artist to paint a portrait of his then-girlfriend Lisa Marie.[8]

Later life[edit]

As of 2015, Keane lives in Napa County, California.

Media portrayal[edit]

In 1973, Woody Allen's comedy Sleeper features people of the future considering Keane to be one of the greatest artists in history.

In the 1980s, sketch series Saturday Night Live aired a skit featuring Keane's work as a parody of the reaction against modern art (e.g., Cubism or the New York Armory Show). Additionally, in the sitcom Newhart, Bob looks at a Keane-inspired painting with his puzzled observation as, "Children with big ears?"

In 1998, cartoon series the Powerpuff Girls debuts by animator Craig McCracken, featuring leads based on Keane's "waifs" (and a character named "Ms. Keane").

In 1999, Matthew Sweet's album, In Reverse, features one of Keane's oil paintings on the album's cover.[9]

Keane and her husband Walter are the main focus of the 2014 biographical film Big Eyes, in which Keane was portrayed by actress Amy Adams.[10] The film was directed by Tim Burton, a Keane collector.[8]


External links[edit]