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The art of Margaret Keane

So I saw Tim Burton's Big Eyes a week ago, and it piqued my interest in Margaret Keane's artwork. I've seemingly been aware of Keane's big eyed waifs my whole life, and I've always had her in the kitsch category. It's interesting to discover that she has painted in a more modernistic style as well (the movie hints at this), and the first four paintings below fit that mode. The fifth is a big eyed child, but from her later career when she was painting happier scenes rather than the melancholy ones she is perhaps more famous for. I like the exuberant colors and composition. That one is called "Who Says Animals Can't Fly?" I haven't been able to find titles for the other four.

In poking around the web I've seen a number of other remarkable paintings that make me think there's a lot more to her artwork than I imagined. But those big eyed waifs are still kitsch.

Margaret Keane Three Models

Margaret Keane Sunflowers 1963

Margaret Keane Harlequins

Margaret Keane Faces

Margaret Keane Who Says Animals Can't Fly

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
del_c
Jan. 10th, 2015 12:17 am (UTC)
I have described my cat Rocky as looking like he belonged on a 70s sitting room wall, in the arms of an equally big-eyed street girl. I didn't know the style belonged to a particular artist.

But the ones I remember were more Spanish-looking than any I can see by Keane, so maybe they were local knock-offs bought on holiday.
randy_byers
Jan. 10th, 2015 12:22 am (UTC)
From what I've read, there have been a lot of imitators of her art. She became famous worldwide in the mid-'60s, although at the time most people thought her husband, Walter, was the painter.
akirlu
Jan. 10th, 2015 01:28 am (UTC)
Which, in retrospect, is so funny (that we ever believed they were the work of a man). It's not like the style is ineluctably masculine, not even a little.
randy_byers
Jan. 10th, 2015 03:17 am (UTC)
Walter was apparently quite a salesman.
frostfox
Jan. 10th, 2015 09:11 am (UTC)
They don't appeal to me, but the animals in the last picture are beautifully rendered, I know there is more money in the 'Real' art world, but I do think it's a shame she didn't illustrate children's books, they would have been fabulous.
They remind me of one of my favouite children's illustrators, the Grahame-Johnstone sisters (they painted together, Janet and Anne).
http://cizgilimasallar.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/deans-book-of-fairy-tales-by-janet-and_22.html

FF
randy_byers
Jan. 10th, 2015 04:50 pm (UTC)
The Grahame-Johnstone stuff is very nice! I had never seen their work before, as far as I know.

I wonder whether Keane has illustrated children's books. As you say, she'd be a natural for that.

She likes to draw animals, and I've seen a number of stylized jungle scenes that she's done. Somewhere I saw that she listed Henri Rousseau as an influence. Also Modigliani, which you can see in the elongated necks in the first three paintings above.
del_c
Jan. 10th, 2015 06:28 pm (UTC)
Now you mention Modigliani, it's the noses I notice, not the necks.
kalimac
Jan. 12th, 2015 03:43 pm (UTC)
These don't look at all like the "big eyes" children's paintings I've seen that I thought were Keane's work. Maybe I'm confused. These look like the work of someone who's been studying a lot of Matisse.
randy_byers
Jan. 12th, 2015 03:53 pm (UTC)
The top four paintings were done in a period when her husband was claiming credit for the big-eye paintings, so Margaret developed another style for paintings that she could claim for herself. She signed them MDH Keane, or sometimes MDH Margaret Keane. The big-eye paintings were signed plain old Keane. Rather remarkable that she could develop two such distinct styles.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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