Margaret Keane: Artwork Stolen by Husband
Margaret Keane is an American artist best known for her trademark “Big Eye” paintings. They gained popularity in the 1960s. But many people didn’t even know that Margaret Keane was the artist behind the work – they thought her husband was the artistic mastermind. Walter Keane began selling his wife’s paintings as his own without permission in the 1950s. Eventually, Margaret discovered what Walter was up to. When she confronted him, Walter used threat, intimidation, and emotional abuse to force her silence. Her husband convinced her that it was easier to earn money this way. They spent a year arguing, but then she agreed that her husband would sell her works as his for the next 13 years. As the works gained in popularity, Margaret continued to toil in obscurity, while Walter enjoyed celebrity.
In 1965, the two were divorced. In 1970, Margaret revealed the truth to the public. Walter denied her allegations, which ultimately led to a surreal 1986 courtroom scene in which the two were forced into a head-to-head paint-off. Walter claimed his sore shoulder prevented him from painting. Naturally, Margaret produced a perfect facsimile of her earlier works, earning the rightful claim to her works in perpetuity. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is a movie about this story. Amy Adams and Christoph Walts played the main characters. Amy Adams even won a Golden Globe for it.