Once Upon a Time by Margaret Keane, www.keane-eyes.com

Women and Adversity: Margaret Keane
Artist: Creator of “Big Eyes” paintings

Margaret Keane was duped! She didn’t realize her husband, Walter Keane, was taking credit for her paintings until she was with him at The Hungry i club in San Francisco where he was selling them. Even after she found out, she allowed him to continue taking credit.

This lady was shy, and Walter was abusive. He frightened her, and Margaret said he threatened her if she revealed the truth. Also, it was the era of the 1960s when women allowed their husbands, bosses and other males in their lives to take the lead in all areas.

Margaret divorced Walter in 1965, but it wasn’t until 1970 she revealed she is the artist behind the “Big Eyes” paintings. In 1986 she sued Walter and USA Today for claiming he was the artist of the paintings. She was able to paint a “Big Eyes” picture in court and won the suit; however, she never received the millions she deserved because Walter had already spent it.

When she was a child, Keane loved to draw, and she became fascinated with painting eyes bigger than normal. It is said an operation when she was two, damaged her hearing, so she concentrated on people’s eyes. She says, though, she doesn’t know why she painted the eyes big.

She was an excellent artist and her portraits, primarily of women, children and animals, became popular in the 1950s. Celebrities around the world bought her paintings. They are displayed at Keane Eyes Gallery in San Francisco, but visiting is by appointment only. Tim Burton directed the movie Big Eyes in 2014.


  • Margaret “Peggy” Doris Hawkins was born in Nashville, Tennessee, September 15, 1927
  • 1937 – enrolled in art classes at Watkins Institute, Nashville
  • 1945 – enrolled in Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City
  • Attended Jacksonville Junior College in Florida and Chaffrey Junior College in Ontario, Canada
  • 1948 – married Frank Ulbrich
  • 1949 – couple have a daughter, Jane
  • 1955 – divorced Frank
  • 1955 – married Walter Keane, a salesman, in Honolulu
  • 1965 – the couple divorced
  • 1970 – married sportswriter Dan McGuire
  • 1983 – McGuire died

    Keane died of heart failure June 26, 2022 in Napa, California at the age of 94.

More information:


My ebooks available at amazon.com and barnes and Noble:

Honoring 23 Black Women, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists  


Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and goodreads.com to learn more.

    Write a Reply or Comment About This Article

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Time limit exceeded. Please complete the captcha once again.


    Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 219 other subscribers

    Discover more from Jo Ann Mathews

    Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

    Continue reading