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Big Eyes Keane Paintings

Updated on March 20, 2014

The Story of Margret Keane

Sad Eyed Children, Big Eyed Art, Doe Eyed Orphans or Sorrowful, wide-eyed waifs, whatever name you used to describe them, there's one thing for sure, with no grey areas, you either loved them or you hated them.

Artist Margaret Keane was born in 1927, by the 60's she was a pop art sensation. Margaret was married to Walter Keane for ten years, from 1955 to 1965. A film about her life is being made called "BIG EYES". Tim Burton, a fan of Margaret's work, will co-produce the film. Early rumours had Ryan Reynolds and Reese Witherspoon in the staring rolls. The latest to be put up for the lead roles are Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams.

The script was penned by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander and Tim Burton will direct the movie said to be released in August 2014.

The film will start just before Margaret and Walter meet up, and ends in a spectacular court scene where Margaret gets her day in court.

Margaret now lives in Napa County, California.

Personally I can't wait until the film comes out. Now I have to go and find all those paintings my sister had hanging up on her anaglypta-wallpapered bedroom walls in the seventies, as they should skyrocket in price after the film.

The script

BIG EYES by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

At the beginning of the script the year is 1955 and Margaret with her eight-year old daughter Jane, leaves her first husband, and lands in the wild and cool beatnik epicenter of San Francisco. The place is foreign and strange, yet she gets a sense that this would be a great place to settle as an artist.

Margaret runs into Walter Keane whilst sketching tourists for a few dollars at Fisherman's Wharf. Walter made an impression on her dressed like a Parisian Artist in a turtle neck and black beret flogging his Paris street scenes with the gusto of a fairground sideshow boss. As soon as Walter meets Margaret he foreshadows his future actions by criticizing her for selling herself and her artwork too short.

It's not long before they pitch their easels next to each other in the park and start a courtship. Jane, Margaret's daughter notices that Walter's canvas is always blank. We learn that Walter is really a commercial realtor. They soon get married and honeymoon in Hawaii. in this script version, they decide not to delve in length into the reason why they get married so hastily, just a letter from Margaret's ex-husband accusing her of being an unfit mother.

Walter's artwork is shunned by a Gallery owner which motivates him to rent wall-space in the hungry I, a hugely popular and hip jazz club, and he exhibits his and wife Margaret's work. At this time they both sign their works as Keane and Walter is soon credited with the sad-eyed-girls, hungry for sales he takes credit for the works. The Jazz club is further instrumental in their success when the club owner and Walter come to blows and are caught on camera; this catapults both the club and the paintings to overnight popularity and Walter deeper and deeper into his lie, a lie that eventually becomes real to him.

The paintings start shifting even though art critics snubbed them, one critic suggested they were "the very definition of tasteless hack work". The layman loved them, and Walter found they had to start printing off posters and framed prints to keep up with demand.

There's not doubt Walter had a flair for marketing, he opens up a gallery across from the first gallery that shunned him and started giving paintings away to famous and influential people including, Natalie wood, Jerry Lewis and Kim Novak also sending one of John Jr. and Caroline Kennedy to the White House.

Walter Keane churned out work, sausage factory style, well before Warhol and his helpers. Walter's sweat shop consisted of Margaret only, whilst she grafted he wallowed in his self-promotion, and the secret was kept even from Margaret's daughter.

Margaret becomes more and more depressed, which reflects in her artwork, almost self-portraits, which makes it more difficult for Walter to explain his inspiration.

The script heads towards the climax, where Margaret gets her day in court after remaining silent for years. A radio interview in 1970 prompted Margaret to admit she and she alone painted the wide-eyed waifs, and at this time challenged Walter to a public painting contest, Walter was a no show.

A couple of years go by and Walter surfaces suggesting to USA Today that Margaret thought that he was dead and that's why she was making her claims. This led to a slander suit from Margaret.

When they both walked into the Honolulu federal court, 20 years had passed since either one had seen each other. Walter was 70 and Margaret 58, the whole trial lasted for 3½-week with plenty of sparks. According to Margaret the only reason she was obsequies and gave into Walter's wishes was because she feared for her and her daughter's lives.

Margaret brought into court paintings from her childhood, and clinched it when she painted a boy's face in fifty three minutes, showing obviously that she is in fact the creator of Big Eyes. Walter was challenged to pick up a paint brush but declined clutching his should, saying he was taking medication and declined the challenge. The court awarded Margaret $4 million for damaged reputation and emotional distress at the hand of Walter's false statements.

At the end of the Script a reporter asks Margaret if she feels vindicated by the high award, she replies that it was never about the money and anyway she doesn't think that Walter would pay up. Margaret adds that she just wanted rightful credit for her work and to get her art back, my prayers are answered.

This was an early draft of the script and there will be many changes to the finished film.

ShearArt Image of "The First Grail", 1962 by Keane

Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams to Star in Big Eyes

The eyes were asking

'Why are we here, why is there suffering? What is the purpose of life?'

Keane Big Eyes


Do You Like Big Eyes Art?

See results

Mdh Margaret Keane

Getting older

Girl with Yellow Rose

Girl with abstract lines - 1997

''I think what Keane has done is just terrific. It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn't like it.'' -- Andy Warhol on Keane in 1965

Hibiscus Miss - 1968

No Dogs Allowed

The Gypsies

"The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Child with Gauguin 1964 Keane

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Keane 1977

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A Boy and His Dog 1962 Keane

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Otter Delight

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Margaret Keane

1967 untittled

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Walter Keane

Walter Keane
Walter Keane


Andy Warhol Margaret Keane painting

Andy Warhol Margaret Keane painting
Andy Warhol Margaret Keane painting

Lion and Child 1964 Keane

Lion and Child 1964 Keane
Lion and Child 1964 Keane

At the Fair 1962 Keane.

At the Fair 1962 Keane.
At the Fair 1962 Keane.
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Three Harlequins 1962 by Margaret Keane

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"The Waifs", 1963 by Keane

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Beachhead-'63 1963 by Keane

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Peace on Earth 1961 by Keane

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The Caretaker 1964 Keane

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The Wildcat 1964, Keane

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The Reluctant Ballerina 1964 Keane

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The Ballet Class 1964 Keane

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Books by this Author - Streaking For Mother

A cynical, famous underwear model, and infamous international Rugby player, despondent and guilt ridden because of a terrible mistake, finds redemption from helping the Streakers who ruined his chances of a world record.

After moving in with this bunch of dysfunctional guerrilla marketeers he discovers all isn't what it seemed and finds out his life is being controlled by his estranged mother from beyond the grave.

His mother is also the patron of a large pawn brokers and the Streakers Matriarch who believe her absence is temporary. It soon becomes apparent to Ashley she has left him with no choice but to help them move on with their lives and come to terms with her untimely death.

Ashley has made enemies too. He is viciously attacked, sent threatening message, and attempts are made to destroy him in the media - both professionally and personally. With his new house mates by his side, they must discover and deal with his pursuer Streaker style.

Pigeon Conspiracy
Pigeon Conspiracy

Con Artist, Fatherly Advice.



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    • profile image

      James Hardman 

      4 years ago

      I was 22 and working at the Examiner in S.F. and went to the Keane's just opened studio on Broadway. I was totally impressed then. Just wish I had bought some. Now I'm 80 and still wish I had one, but the movie will make the cost to soar out of site. I'll see the movie in a few weeks when it comes out.

    • ismeedee profile image


      6 years ago

      Looking at these gave me a warm feeling inside... I have a vague and distant memory of seeing some of this art as a child, with nice feelings attached.

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      6 years ago

      Wonderful to see so many big eyes by Keane!

    • Mark Shearman profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Shearman 

      6 years ago from Alicante Spain

      @anonymous: HI, thanks for the visit the film is in Pre-production and is scheduled to be Shot this spring.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Terrific lens! I am a big fan of art and have never bumped into this artist, so I really appreciated finding this gem on Squidoo! Do you know when the movie is coming out? I would LOVE to see it! Take care now!


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