Margaret Keane

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Margaret Keane
Born Peggy Doris Hawkins
1927 (age 87–88)
Nashville, Tennessee
Other names Peggy Ulbrich, MDH Keane, Margaret McGuire
Occupation Artist
Spouse(s) Frank Richard Ulbrich,
Walter Keane (m. 1955; div. 1965),
Daniel Francis McGuire (m. 1970)
Children 1

Margaret D. H. Keane (born Peggy Doris Hawkins; September 15, 1927) is an American artist who mainly paints women, children, and animals with big eyes 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 oversized, 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[1][4] A federal appeals court upheld the verdict of defamation in 1990, but overturned the $4 million damage award.[5]

The works Keane created while living in the shadow of her husband tended to depict sad-looking children in dark settings. After she left Walter Keane, moved to Hawaii, and became 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".[6]

Actresses Joan Crawford and Natalie Wood commissioned Keane to paint their portraits.[7][8] 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.[9]

As of 2015, Keane lives in Napa County, California.[10][11]

Media portrayal[edit]

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

In the 1980s, the television 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 its cover.[12]

Keane and her former husband Walter are the main focus of the 2014 biographical film Big Eyes, in which Keane was portrayed by actress Amy Adams.[13] The film was directed by Tim Burton, a Keane collector.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Tim Burton 'Big Eyes' Movie Tells The Story Of Art Couple Margaret and Walter Keane...". Huffington Post. April 4, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-09. 
  2. ^ Ryzik, Melen (December 18, 2014). "The Artist Margaret Keane, Vindicated in Tim Burton's Film". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ "Big Eyes and All: The Unofficial Biography of Margaret Keane", page 27
  4. ^ Kunen, James S. (23 June 1986). "Margaret Keane's Artful Case Proves That She—and Not Her Ex-Husband—made Waifs". People. 
  5. ^ "Keane left isles for California in '91". Honolulu Star Bulletin. August 6, 1997. 
  6. ^ "My Life as a Famous Artist", Awake!, July 8, 1975
  7. ^ "Joan Crawford Awards, Art, and Other Personal Items". The Best of Everything: A Joan Crawford Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  8. ^ Bas, Borja (July 19, 2013). "El infierno de la artista que iluminó a Tim Burton" [The Artist Who Brightened Tim Burton Lived Through Hell]. El País. Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  9. ^ a b “The big-eyed children: the extraordinary story of an epic art fraud”, “The Guardian”, October 26, 2014, Retrieved 2014-10-28.
  10. ^ Jesse Hamlin (December 14, 2014). "Artist Margaret Keane hasn’t lost wide-eyed enthusiasm for work". SF Chronicle. 
  11. ^ Keane Eyes Gallery
  12. ^ Stratton, Jeff (February 2, 2000). "Matthew Sweet". 
  13. ^ "Harvey Weinstein Praises ‘Big Eyes’ Screenwriters-Producers at Film’s Premiere". Variety. 

External links[edit]