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CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of the Olympic Posters
The Case of the Olympic Posters

The Case of the Solitary Surrealist
The Case of the Solitary Surrealist

The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity
The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys
The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard
The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910
The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of the Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2

The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light
The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light

The Case of Leni and the Nuba
The Case of Leni and the Nuba

The Case of the Seductive Souvenir
The Case of the Seductive Souvenir

The Case of the Irish Surrealist
The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The Case of the Developing Dalí
The Case of the Developing Dalí

The Case of Nano-D Technology
The Case of Nano-D Technology

The Case of Dabatable Donations
The Case of Debatable Donations

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of the Long-tailed Monkey

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of Edgar Heap of Birds

Silent Song
The Case of the Silent Song

Aficionado
The Case of Alex and the Art Aficionado

Portrait
The Case of the Privacy of the Publicity Photo

Potter
The Case of the Potter's Portraits

The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

The Case of the Political Portraitist

The Case of the Reconsidered Revolution

The Case of the Anabiotic Abbey

The Case of the Phoney Picasso

The Case of Setsuko Piroche

The Case of being on the Forest Edge with Vern Simpson

The Case of Being at the End of the Storm with Loren Adams

The Case of Being: Under the Table with Thomas

The Case of Wyland's Whales on Walls

The Case of A.Y. Jackson's Smart River (Alaska)

The Case of Red Fish with Blue Breasts

The Case of Looe Poole

The Case of Camaldoli

The Case of MS

The Case of the Misattributed Emily Carrs

The Case of the Doubtful Dürer

The Case of the Purloined Picasso

The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

The Case of the First Wife

The Case of the Dodford Priory

The Case of the Unknown Actor

Art Services & Materials


Confessions Back

Three paintings in the style of Margaret Keane

Three paintings in the style of Margaret Keane

Practical Art History
(or Confessions of a Fine Art Appraiser)

by Jim Finlay
Finlay Fine Art
finlayfineart.com

Chapter 50. The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The 2014 movie Big Eyes, about Walter and Margaret Keane, increased awareness of Margaret’s paintings of children with unusually large eyes. Her “big-eyed waifs” became hugely popular in the 1960s, though it was her husband who took credit for the work for over a decade.

At one point in the movie, when Walter is being interviewed about the inspiration for “his” work, he claims that when he was in Paris, he was inspired to paint the “lost children” of war-ravaged Europe – children who were displaced, abandoned and left to wander. While this was not Margaret’s inspiration – the movie suggests her interest was simply in portraying the soulfulness of the eyes – her big-eyed subjects became inextricably associated with the psychological and emotional impacts suffered by children in war.

The unsigned images above share some obvious similarities with Margaret Keane’s work. They were probably painted about 1967 by itinerant artists employed by Suh Kwang Products Limited, specifically to sell to American combat personnel, usually in Vietnam or Korea, to send to their relatives back home. Each image was approved by the soldier and often included personal information, such as the soldier’s name, squad and regimental emblem. Sometimes a personal message from the soldier would be written on the back.

Interesting to note is that these images were, like Keane’s renderings of children, designed to evoke sympathy, sadness and despondency. The military images are interpretations of soldiers as frightened and lonely boys far from home. They have the appearance of “aid to impoverished children” advertising posters. But these soldier boys are not innocent bystanders; rather, they aspire to be participants, physically and ideologically engaged in war.

The artists of these images deliberately attempted to undermine the sense of American power and military supremacy by depicting each subject as a lonely and frightened boy seeking release from his torment.

These works may be read as a veiled propaganda effort by the enemy to expose the futility of American military involvement in these wars. The pieces seem designed to stir a public call to bring these combatants back to the US. The purpose of the images as “postcards from the front” or “wishing I wasn’t here” scenarios also contributes to their stature as documents of visual subterfuge.

Contemporary advertising campaigns use a similar strategy of depicting small children, usually with large, soulful eyes, as a means to raise money, knowing such images will foster feelings of empathy, sympathy, remorse and pity.

Next: The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

 Sat, Nov 19, 2016