What Ever Happened to Those Big Eyed Kids?

19745_57bd920b91If you remember any part of the Sixties, you’ll remember these. Even if you are younger, you must have run into one of the Big Eyes paintings at various garage sales. Big Eyed Kid paintings used to be everywhere. Along with Big Eyed Cats and Big Eyed Dogs. There may even have been some Big Eyed Clowns. (Or that might have just been one of my nightmares.) I remember one in a neighbor’s garage that showed Big Eyed Kids staring through the barbed wire from a concentration camp. That really freaked me out. For Christmas one year, someone gave me a Big Eyed Kid paint-by-numbers. On black velvet. Which must have been some sort of Pop Culture Kitsch Vortex.

Chances are most of the Big Eyed Kids you might have seen — especially in garage sales — were reproductions or cheap copies. Because apparently the original Big Eyed Kids paintings were selling for a mint at a North Beach gallery during the Sixties and early Seventies.

Kate Hudson is playing Margaret Keane. If old timer's stories about her husband are true, this is going to be one juicy flick.

Kate Hudson is playing Margaret Keane. If old timers’ stories about her husband are true, this is going to be one juicy flick.

Turns out, the Big Eyed paintings were the work of a San Francisco artist named Margaret Keane. Her husband, who was the marketing brains behind the duo, built the “brand” into the first mass marketed art phenomenon. To the point where Hollywood celebrities were commissioning Big Eyed pictures of themselves. The rest of us probably got a puzzle or a lunch box or a poster featuring a Big Eyed something.


Unfortunately, Walter Keane’s “promotion” extended to claiming credit for his wife’s work. Credit that was proven to be false in a Federal Court case, where his divorced wife proved she was the real artist by painting a Big Eyed Kid in the judge’s presence. Her husband refused to do the same, claiming a bad shoulder. She won the case.

Terriers are a natural for the Big Eyes treatment. Cant you just see Lucy in one? On black velvet.

Terriers are a natural for the Big Eyes treatment. Can’t you just see Lucy in one? On black velvet.

A little bit of Googling after pondering this bit of “What Ever Happened To…” turned up the interesting fact that there is a movie in the works about Margaret Keane. It’s called, appropriately, Big Eyes. Kate Hudson will play Margaret. Thomas Haden Church will play Walter.


And the real Margaret Keane? She now lives in Napa. Practically a neighbor. I wonder if she’d be interested in painting two Big Eyed Terriers in a vineyard?

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Author: Lisa

Although I'd like to think of myself as a rootin', tootin', wine-makin' cowgirl, I currently only live in Sonoma part-time. Mostly I'm on freeways between San Jose, San Francisco and Sonoma. With two yapping terriers in crates behind me. We try to enjoy all three places and points in between. Which will explain why my post subjects are all over the map.

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  1. You know I have seen those paintings, I had no idea they were named “Big Eyes Paintings” makes sense.
    Very interesting!

  2. My 7 yo daughter has one of the cheap prints hanging in her room. It was mine as a child (in the 60’s) and my Mom, thinking herself an artist, ‘touched it up’ a bit.
    It’s a cardboard print turned family heirloom! I had no idea it was kitch.

  3. I do have memories of those big eyed kids, and they’re not very fond. They creeped me out then and still have that effect today. And I do believe there were big eyed kid sculptures, too. Ewww.

  4. C’mon Carson, can’t you just see a Big Eyes painting of Wynonna your pig? Shall I contact Margaret Keane and commission one?

  5. I have a minor recollection of those paintings. I believe my sister had a lunch box. Interesting story of the back ground. But I believe the husband will prove his innocence when his sholuder gets better. Could this be a story warning to Andy?

  6. you post the most random stuff sometimes. that’s why i love to read your blog when I’m at work. in the middle of the day it’s the best relief from my hair-raising clients.

    I have never seen these big-eyed painting you speak of, but you know what they remind me of?? The “little precious moments” figurines or paintings or cartoons or whatever the frack they are, you know, they always look real sad. Are those things a spinoff of Keane’s work?

    And are we to wait and expect this movie to come out? Or has it already been made?


  7. I think Precious Moments and the Big Eyed Kids are a case of Parallel Evolution. The movie is supposed to be in production this fall.

  8. I have an oil painting of a little boy fishing on a river bank he has
    big eyes, but it’s signed by Dallas Simpson. Can you give me any information on either, I have searched on the internet and can’t find any information on them.

    Muchly appreciated

    Linda Mora

  9. I personally love the stories behind the “Big Eyed Kids”. I hve one that is called, “The Marti Gras Boy”. It is adorable. What’s not to love about these kids?

    Thank you Margaret!

  10. I remember those. The stuff of nightmares. They make me think of alien-hybrid children. If I could find one at a garage sale, I’d paint their eyes solid black. lol

  11. About 1964 a women who did those pictures, took some pictures of my daughters at a beach in Groton, Ct. Would have loved to find out if she did do pictures of my daughters.


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  2. Blog Article and Video about  What Ever Happened to Those Big Eyed Kids? | Left Coast Cowboys - Kate Hudson - [...] out, the Big Eyed paintings were the work of a San Francisco artist named Margaret Keane. … http://leftcoastcowboys.com/2009/06/11/what-ever-happened-to-those-big-eyed-kids/ …
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