Margaret Keane (American)
Birth Place: Nashville, TN USA
Who is painter Margaret Keane?
Margaret Keane is an American painter best known for her surrealistic portraits featuring subjects with preternaturally large eyes. These oil paintings often feature women or animals. Despite the rather bizarre nature of her subjects, Keane has experienced intense critical acclaim and commercial success. This was not without its own challenges, her work was stolen by her then-husband Walter Keane, which led to a protracted legal battle. She eventually won the rights to her own paintings in 1986. Her images are often featured on plates, cups, and other inexpensive reproductions. Her unique story and art led to her becoming the subject of Tim Burton’s 2014 biopic, Big Eyes.
Today Keane operates a gallery in San Francisco. It is the largest collection of Margaret Keane’s art in the world. While her work is extremely divisive with critics, she has enjoyed a good amount of success apart from the gallery world. Her work has been featured in Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen movies, on album covers, and even the cartoon series, The Powerpuff Girls. Keane’s influence on modern culture is undeniable, ultimately culminating in the 2014 biopic that covers her career and legal troubles.
What kind of art does Margaret Keane make?
Margaret Keane makes surrealistic oil paintings and mixed media pieces that often feature subjects with extremely large eyes. These images are often haunting and utilize color and dimension in ways that aren’t often seen in modern art. Keane has stated in interviews that Amedeo Modigliani’s work has been a major influence on her style, as well as more well-known artists like Van Gogh and Gustav Klimt. While she hasn’t enjoyed the critical success that those artists have received, her work has gone on to find a rather wide audience and patronage. She has many fans in the film and pop culture world, and her biopic has led to a rediscovery of her work by the casual fan and art collector.
How did painter Margaret Keane get started?
Born Peggy Doris Hawkins, Margaret Keane spent much of her early life in Nashville, Tennessee. After an injury, her eardrum became permanently damaged forcing the young Keane to watch the eyes of the person talking to be able to understand them. She began drawing at the age of ten, painting her first oil painting around that same age. While still a child, her drawings at church became well known for her angels with big eyes -- a precursor of her blossoming aesthetic and trademark style.
In the mid-1950s, Margaret met Walter Keane. They started a romantic relationship. Unbeknownst to Margaret, Walter began selling her work under his own name. He eventually became a famous painter, even garnering praise from Andy Warhol in the 1960s. Eventually, Margaret would clear her name and receive the attention and acclaim for her work that was rightfully hers -- but not before a protracted legal battle that lasted decades.
How much are Margaret Keane paintings worth?
On the low end, a Margaret Keane painting can sell for about $1,000, while a major work can sell for as much as $45,000. The most ever paid for a Margaret Keane painting at auction is $45,000 for the piece Portrait of Zsa Zsa Gabor (date N/A) on April 14th, 2018. It was sold by Heritage Auctions. Heritage Auction has been a large proponent of Keane’s work and has sold several of her highest-selling pieces, including Forgotten Flower (1969) which sold for $25,000 on July 1st, 2020.
Where to buy Margaret Keane paintings for sale?
See the works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on the artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.
How to value Margaret Keane’s paintings?
The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services Department.
Sold Collectibles & Art
How do you know what's valuable?
Our Art Value Guide provides free information about how to value your Margaret Keane Artwork.