The “large-eyed waifs”—paintings of girls and kids with pronounced huge eyes—were created by American artist Margaret Keane. Despite the fact that her work has been economically successful, some have criticized her painting technique as being “cheesy.” In the United States, Keane was born in Nashville, Tennessee. She was very young when she first became interested in painting. She gained popularity in her church because of her drawings of angels with large eyes and flapping wings. She married Walter Keane in the middle of the 1950s, but she subsequently discovered that he was using her works as his own and selling them. Even though he coerced her into maintaining the façade, she soon found it to be excruciating. After a judge ordered them all to paint in the courtroom, she later sued Walter and won the case. For her damages, $4 million was paid. Hollywood stars including Joan Crawford, Natalie Wood, and Jerry Lewis have also hired her to paint their likenesses. In San Francisco, she runs a gallery with what she calls the largest collection of her works anywhere in the world.
Career of Margaret Keane
At the age of 18, Margaret Keane enrolled at the Traphagen School of Design in New York. In the 1950s, she began her career by painting baby cribs and apparel before switching to portraiture. Even though she was already married, she obtained a divorce and relocated to San Francisco. She soon met real estate salesman Walter Keane, and the two found themselves attracted to one another. They ultimately got hitched.
Soon after their nuptials, Walter started to market her works. Keane was unaware that he claimed they were his original works despite the fact that he did not. He threatened her to maintain the facade after she learned of this. Keane was in considerable pain but felt helpless in the situation.
Over time, her paintings rose to the top of the market and began selling for millions. Walter, who was also a womanizer and a drunk, began to be very abusive to her. She used to be locked in a studio where her only task was to produce more artwork for him to sell.
In 1970, she finally admitted that she was the true author of the artwork during a radio appearance. She sued Walter, which she ultimately won after she replicated one of her pieces in less than an hour to establish her legitimacy as the true artist. She was given a $4 million damage award. She said, however, that she was just concerned with establishing herself as the genuine author of her paintings and didn’t care about the money.
Big Eyes, a biographical drama movie based on Keane’s life, was released in 2014. The Tim Burton-directed film illustrated how her husband claimed credit for her work before she eventually admitted that she was the true artist. The movie was a financial success and received favorable reviews. The Golden Globe Award went to actress Amy Adams for her portrayal of Keane.
A number of Hollywood actors had their portraits painted by Keane. She has been influenced by the works of painters like Picasso, Van Gogh, Klimt, and Amedeo Modigliani.
Individual Life of Margaret Keane
Peggy Doris Hawkins was Margaret Keane’s given name when she was born on September 15, 1927, in Nashville, Tennessee. She experienced lifelong eardrum damage as a result of a mastoid operation when she was just two years old, which made it difficult for her to communicate verbally.
She had a young age when she began to draw. When she was ten years old, she attended a few sessions at the Watkins Art Institute. Two little girls, one sobbing and the other giggling were depicted in her first painting.
From 1948 to 1955, she was wed to Frank Richard Ulbrich, with whom she had a daughter. From 1955 to 1965, she was married to Walter Keane in her second marriage. She wed sportswriter Dan McGuire in 1970, just a few years after they had divorced. She currently resides in the US state of California’s Napa County.
Estimated net worth
A well-known painter known for her works, particularly those with large eyes, is Margaret Keane. Keane’s estimated net worth at the time of her death in 2022 was $2.5 million. She resides in a mansion in California’s Napa County.