Eyes on the World's Famous Eyes

Walter Keane

When I was a kid, Walter Keane‘s “world famous ‘Big Eye’ paintings” were searing – and hot. I recently came across the Keane Eyes Gallery website and was reminded just how much they entered American popular culture. The print above was in the hallway, right outside my bedroom (until I was 16). My parents said it reminded them of me (that’s why I grew a beard, of course).

Here is an excerpt from the site, which tells about the controversy between Walter and ex-wife Margaret:

The world famous “Big Eye” paintings had their beginning in San Francisco over 50 years ago, by the artist Margaret Keane. In time they also became known and referred to as “Waifs,” “Keane,” “Sad Eyes,” and many other titles, all depicting the unique styles of this very creative woman. You may be surprised to hear the artist is a woman. You see, for many years she was married to a man who claimed credit for what she painted. To prove she was in fact the artist and not her former husband, she painted in court before a Federal Judge and jury, an original oil on canvas painting. When her ex-husband was asked to paint by the judge, his reply was: “I can’t today, because I have a sore shoulder.” Needless to say Margaret won the case and she continues to paint those Big Eyes we have come to love so dearly.

After divorcing her husband, Margaret moved to Hawaii and lived there for almost 27 years. While there her style of painting changed in the sense that the paintings became brighter in color. And, after becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the paintings became happier, since this changed her outlook on life. Though still painting with tears, they are most often tears of joy and not sadness. Presently, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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