''Gradually it dawned on me that I was painting my own inner emotions. Those children were asking: 'Why are we here? What is life all about? Why is there sadness and injustice?' All those deep questions. Those children were sad because they didn't have the answers. They were searching.’’
- Margaret Keane
Quirky yet haunting; this is what I think of when Margaret Keane’s works are mentioned. I’m convinced that those big round eyes can capture your deepest darkest secrets if you stare long enough. That’s why they look so glassy and teary-eyed, as if the children can empathise with your feelings. Her works are interesting to say the least, but how she came about in the art scene and how she managed to make a name for herself is what’s most fascinating to me. Her paintings are quite captivating of course, but for a time, no one knew she was behind all those masterpieces.
It was in the late 50’s and early 60’s when Keane’s paintings started the so-called big eyes revolution. Everyone was in on the hype as various merchandises featuring the artworks were sold. Though she wasn’t quite commended for her talent since her husband at the time, Walter Keane, claimed those artworks as his own for more than a decade. Showcasing “his” works in a number of galleries certainly created an empire out of this whole scheme and left Margaret behind his shadow. Walter was even considered as one of the wealthiest and most intriguing painters at that time, having “his” works displayed in collections as well as owned by famous personalities.
Come 1970, after five years of separation from Walter and several years of living in silence, Margaret Keane finally spoke up and told the public about the truth behind the big eyes paintings. As expected, Walter denied allegations of him committing such crime while in court for slander. This led to a paint-off between the two. Walter claimed to have a shoulder injury and refused to paint, but in under an hour, Margaret had produced “Exhibit 224”, probably the most triumphant and important artwork she has ever made. So Walter was sued and she was rewarded $4 million in damages.
Currently in her late 80’s, Margaret still continues to paint and has recently inspired a brand new Tim Burton film entitled Big Eyes which will be out this late November. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz will be playing the Keane couple alongside other great actors such as Jason Schwartzman and Krysten Ritter.
Watch the trailer: