Margaret Keane, ‘big eyes’ artist whose husband claimed works were his own, dies at 94

She was 94-years-old.
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 12:35 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2022 at 3:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Artist Margaret Keane, the former Hawaii resident whose paintings of children with big, mournful eyes gained international acclaim and sparked controversy when her husband took credit for the works for years, has died.

Her family said she died at her California home and that the cause of death was heart failure. She was 94.

Keane’s husband, Walter, fraudulently claimed credit for her work for years. She divorced him and moved to Hawaii.

Artist Margaret Keane attends the "Big Eyes" premiere at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday,...
Artist Margaret Keane attends the "Big Eyes" premiere at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)(Evan Agostini | Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

And in 1970 she told a reporter that her former husband had painted none of the big-eyed paintings.

In 1986, Keane called for a dramatic “paint-off” challenge in a Honolulu court, where she had brought a defamation suit against Walter. This scene was recreated for the biopic “Big Eyes” starring Amy Adams.

Margaret Keane was able to paint a work In less than an hour.

Her ex, who represented himself in the case, said he had a sore shoulder and could not paint. Margaret won the case.

ARCHIVE VIDEO: Jury orders Walter Keane to pay Margaret Keane $4M over big-eyed paintings

In 1986, a judge ordered Walter Keane to pay his ex-wife Margaret Keane $4 million for slander in a dispute over big-eyed paintings.

Some of her paintings depict scenes and subjects from Hawaii.

Keane returned to California in 1992, and for more than 25 years she continued to paint and sell her work.

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