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Monday, February 1, 2010

Margaret Keane - The Lady Behind the Big-eyed Kids

This weekend we came across an article on Margaret Keane, originally published in Life magazine from November 1970. Today we share that with you along with one her her works that I prize as part of my collection of prints.

Margaret Keane, now Mrs. Dan McGuire, works on a series of lithographs for the San Francisco Cory Gallery.

Five years ago one of America's most commercially successful living artists, who always refers to himself in the third person, boasted to a reporter, "Nobody could paint eyes like El Greco, and nobody can paint eyes like Walter Keane." It turns our that someone can; his ex-wife Margaret. Not only can she paint eyes like Walter Keane, but she now claims that Walter never did a single on of those saccharine, lugubrious paintings that peer out of nearly every dime store window in the land. "I did them all," she said. "He can't paint eyes. He couldn't learn to paint at all." Until the Keanes split up in 1965 the prospered as a husband and wife artist team with a six figure annual income. Margaret was known for almond eyed portraits while Walter claimed the teary round eyed waifs that brought the highest prices. In the beginning, the ex-Mrs. Keane says, she was unaware of what her husband was doing. "Every night Walter went down to sell the paintings at a San Francisco night spot called the hungry i. I stayed home painting a lot of children with different city backgrounds. It suited me fine. I was extremely timid and shy." But it was a shock when she found out a year and a half later that Walter was claiming the wet eyed kids as his own, telling her that buyers were willing to pay more if they thought he had done them. Margaret admits that her husband had a real genius for promotions and selling. "But it was a nightmare when Walter threatened to kill me and our two daughters if we told anyone." Keane himself refuses to enter into the controversy; "I'd much rather daub that smear." But when challenged by his ex-wife to a paint-out in San Francisco's Union Square a few weeks ago, he didn't even show up leaving Margaret the undisputed leader of the Big eye school of art.

Margaret and Walter Keane worked at adjoining easels in 1965. One Keane painting brought as much as $17,500.

At the paint-out in San Francisco, her husband did not appear.

Margaret McGuire completes and 'original Keane," right down to the wisps of hair, childish mouth and huge eyes.

Margaret says of her new husband, Dan McGuire, a sportswriter for a Honolulu newspaper, "He helped me a lot to become less timid and afraid. For a year I couldn't paint anything at all.

Margaret went on to divorce her husband and also sued
Walter USA Today in 1986 for an article claiming he did the work. Once again she went on to paint a picture of her signature work for the jury and won. When Walter was asked to paint for the jury he claimed he had hurt his shoulder and couldn't paint that day. She won.

This is one of Keane's paintings that we have hanging in our home, it's a print but I really love it. You can see more of her work here and a few of her paintings featuring designer clothing here.

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