Margaret Keane, an Iconic Painter of Big-Eyed Figures, Passes Away at 94

CEO Tam DT
Margaret Keane, a painter whose distinctive big-eyed figures became an integral part of the mid-century American art scene, has sadly passed away at the age of 94. Her enchanting creations captured the hearts of millions...

Margaret Keane Margaret Keane, a painter whose distinctive big-eyed figures became an integral part of the mid-century American art scene, has sadly passed away at the age of 94. Her enchanting creations captured the hearts of millions and left an indelible mark on popular culture.

A Talented Visionary Ahead of Her Time

Born as Margaret Doris Hawkins in Nashville, Tennessee in 1927, Margaret Keane's artistic journey began at a young age. As a child, she developed a fascination with eyes after a mastoid operation left her with permanent hearing issues. Drawing figures with exaggerated saucer eyes became her signature style, foreshadowing the artistic path she would follow throughout her life.

The Rise of the Keane Legacy

In 1955, Margaret married Walter Keane, her second husband. Walter, a former real-estate salesman, saw the potential in Margaret's unique artwork and embarked on an ambitious quest to popularize her paintings. However, he controversially claimed authorship of the artworks, leading to a highly publicized "paint off" to determine the true artist behind the iconic big-eyed figures. This captivating story was later adapted into the 2014 film Big Eyes by Tim Burton.

Unparalleled Popularity and Criticism

Despite facing skepticism from the art world establishment, Margaret Keane's captivating style resonated with the public on a deep emotional level. Her artworks, characterized by their sentimentality, filled galleries nationwide and adorned countless prints and postcards found in department stores. The Keane style struck a chord with millions of art enthusiasts, even if it failed to garner acclaim from critics.

"Mr. Keane is the painter who enjoys international celebration for grinding out formula pictures of wide-eyed children of such appalling sentimentality that his product has become synonymous among critics with the very definition of tasteless hack work." - John Canaday, New York Times Art Critic

The Truth Unveiled

Margaret Keane's personal and artistic journey took a dramatic turn when she publicly revealed herself as the true artist behind the beloved big-eyed figures. In a courageous act, she challenged Walter to a live painting demonstration in San Francisco's Union Square, but he failed to appear. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of Margaret's liberation and the end of their tumultuous marriage.

Triumph Against Adversity

In 1986, following a defamation lawsuit, Margaret and Walter engaged in another "paint-off" under the order of a judge. Margaret swiftly created a captivating big-eyed canvas in just one hour, while Walter claimed he couldn't paint due to a sore shoulder. The courtroom ruling awarded Margaret $4 million in damages, but Walter soon declared bankruptcy. Despite Walter's persistent claims of authorship until his death in 2000, Margaret's artistic genius and unwavering determination prevailed.

A Lasting Legacy

Margaret Keane's talent and resilience left an indelible mark on the art world. In 1992, she founded the Keane Eyes Gallery in San Francisco, which stands today on Geary Street near the location of the iconic "paint off" that never transpired. Even in her later years, Margaret continued to create stunning artworks and sell them through her gallery and auctions. Her artistic contributions will forever be celebrated and cherished.

"I was in this trap, and I was getting in deeper and deeper. I didn’t have enough sense to stop it or courage." - Margaret Keane

In conclusion, Margaret Keane's enduring legacy as a visionary artist and her captivating big-eyed figures have touched the hearts of millions. Her ability to evoke emotion through her art will forever be remembered. Margaret Keane will be greatly missed, but her extraordinary talent and spirit will continue to inspire generations to come.

Rest in peace, Margaret Keane.

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