Walter Keane

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Walter Stanley Keane (7 October 191527 December 2000) was an American plagiarist who became famous in the 1960s as claimed painter of a series of widely reproduced paintings depicting vulnerable waifs with enormous eyes.  The paintings were in fact painted by his wife, Margaret Keane.  When she made this fact public, Walter Keane retaliated with a USA Today article that again claimed he had done the work.  In 1986, Margaret Keane sued Walter and USA Today; in the subsequent slander suit, the judge demanded that the litigants paint a painting in the courtroom, but Walter declined, citing a sore shoulder.  Margaret then produced a painting for the jurors in fifty-three minutes and the jury awarded her damages of $4 million.  The subject of Walter and Margaret Keane life together was depicted in the 2014 Tim Burton film Big Eyes.


  • Well, I first, uh, started doing this after World War II when I was kind of tramping around France, Germany, and the lowlands, and I came upon these frightened, waif-type children, and, uh, they actually looked like rats running around and they acted like it.  And, uh, I started painting this type of thing of these chi—these children, they didn't even seem to know why—these children didn't even seem to know how to talk; they couldn't even pray.  And it started like, uh, an artist work—it-it does—you don't know how to talk about it, but the painting can talk for you, and I think this is the difference between an artist and a poet and a writer: in other words, an artist, uh, paints what he has to say, where other people do it in, uh, in more verbal type of…


Cited by Jane Howard[edit]

Jane Howard, "The Man Who Paints Those Big Eyes: The Phenomenal Success of Walter Keane," LIFE 59, no. 9 (27 August 1965), pp. 39–40, 42–45, 48.

About Walter Keane[edit]

Jane Joward[edit]

Margaret Keane[edit]

Cited by Jane Howard[edit]

Cited in "The lady behind those Keane-eyed kids"[edit]

"The lady behind those Keane-eyed kids," LIFE 69, no. 21 (20 November 1970), p. 56.

Cited by Jesse Hamlin[edit]

Jesse Hamlin, "Artist Margaret Keane hasn't lost wide-eyed enthusiasm for work," SFGate (14 December 2014).

External links[edit]

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