Art Corporation of America | Artists | Margaret Keane

About Margaret Keane

Margaret Keane "Big Eyes" Movie Trailer


Originally recognized by their wistful and sad-eyed children, Margaret Keane's works now feature happy children, animals, or both, all with her signature large-eyes, in delightful places and situations. "The eyes I draw on my children are an expression of my own deepest feelings. Eyes are windows of the soul," explains Margaret. The painter of sad-eyed children with wide black eyes, Margaret Keane was discovered in the 1970s by Curator Tyler Stallings of the Laguna Art Museum, who first saw her work when K-mart sold cheap reproductions. Margaret Keane has a San Francisco gallery called Keane Eyes, from where she does commissioned portraits.

Margaret Keane(born 1927) is an American artist. She is an illustrator and painter, and mainly draws women and children in oil or mixed media. Her works are instantly recognizable (although often imitated) from the doe-eyed children that are depicted in the drawings.

Margaret D. H. Keane was born 1927 in Tennessee, a state in the Bible Belt. Margaret herself attributes her deep respect for the Bible and inspirations of her artwork to the relationship with her grandmother. She eventually became one of Jehovah's Witnesses, which she said changed her life most definitely for the better.

In the 1960s, Margaret Keane's artwork was sold under the name of her husband of the time, Walter Keane, her second husband. Many reasons might be put forward to explain this, but it was also one of the reasons they divorced. Not wanting to relinquish the rights to the artwork, Walter and Margaret's divorce proceeding went all the way to Federal court. At the hearing, Margaret painted in front of the judge to prove her point. In 1965, the courts sided with her, enabling her to paint under her own name.

Her works while she was living in her husband's shadow were dark and sad, but after the divorce, moving to Hawaii, and becoming one of Jehovah's Witnesses she started painting in a much happier and brighter style. Many galleries now advertise her work as having "tears of joy" or "tears of happiness".

Currently Margaret makes her home in Napa County, California.

The American television comedy show Saturday Night Live once had a skit that featured her work, during the time when it was thought to be by her husband, as a parody of the reaction against modern art (e.g., Cubism or the New York Armory Show). "People don't look like that!" one comedian shrieked, before the picture in question was shown to the camera and audience as the punch line.

Hollywood film star Joan Crawford was a great fan of the "large-eyed waif" Keane paintings, which she had hanging in the bedroom and dressing room of her 9-room Imperial House (150 East 69th Street, NYC) apartment. Margaret Keane also did a portrait of Joan for her home. In Woody Allen's 1973 comedy Sleeper, the people of the future consider Keane to be one of the greatest artists in history, one of many references mocking the popular culture of the seventies. Late Night with Conan O'Brien has "bumper" art in her style depicting a glum Conan O'Brien at his desk, next to a dog. Director Tim Burton commissioned Keane to paint a portrait of his one-time fiancé Lisa Marie holding their pet Chihuahua Poppy. Matthew Sweet and his wife Lisa are big fans and collectors of Keane's art. Animator Craig McCracken had partly based his titular creations, The Powerpuff Girls, on Keane's waif paintings. The girls' schoolteacher is named Ms. Keane.

Paintings by Margaret Keane are in public collections all over the world: The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Madrid; The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; National Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City; Musee Communal Des Beaux-Arts, Bruges; Tennessee Fine Arts Museum, Nashville, Tennessee; Brooks Memorial Museum, Memphis, Tennessee; Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu; The United Nations, New York City and others.

Major one-artist shows around the world have featured the works of Margaret Keane. The Brussels Pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair, by special invitation of the Belgian government; Tokyo American Cultural Center in Tokyo, sponsored by the U.S. State Department; National Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid and galleries in New York, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, San Francisco and Beverly Hills are just some of the locations. She was named a Fellow of The Society of Western Artists after exhibiting in three Annual Juried Shows in the M.H. De Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco.

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