Margaret Keane, who went to court to prove her popular paintings of children with big sad eyes were hers and not her husband’s, a story told in the Tim Burton film Big eyes, is dead. She was 94 years old.

Keane died Sunday of heart failure at her home in Napa, Calif., her daughter, Jane Swigert, said. The New York Times.

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Amy Adams portrayed Margaret Keane in Big eyes (2014) starring Christoph Waltz as her estate agent husband, Walter Keane.

For years from the 1950s, Walter Keane persuaded his wife to paint up to 16 hours a day while promoting her work as his own. Stars such as Jerry Lewis, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Liberace commissioned portraits from Keane, and Joan Crawford used one for the cover of her 1962 autobiography.

After Margaret and Walter divorced in 1965, she finally revealed in 1970 that she was the true artist behind the kitsch artwork.

In a 1986 Honolulu court ‘paint-down’, Margaret shot a big-eyed kid dead in 53 minutes while Walter, who represented himself in the case, said he was in pain. shoulder and was unable to paint. She was awarded damages of $4 million, although they were released after Walter declared bankruptcy.

In his THR review of Big eyesTodd McCarthy wrote: “This nimble, bewildered and culturally curious look at the married instigators of early 1960s kitschy ‘big eye’ paintings exudes a pleasantly eccentric appeal while painting a disturbing picture of male dominance and submission. half-feminine- a century ago.

“This is a story about fatherhood and ownership against the backdrop of a wildly unbalanced marriage, as well as a warped struggle for recognition of his work, even though naysayers might ask, as we do, ‘Who would take the credit?’”

His story was also examined in the 2014 book by Adam Parfrey and Cletus Nelson, Citizen Keane: The Big Lie Behind the Big Eyes.

Keane worked closely with screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to develop the screenplay for The Weinstein Co., including Walter’s self-cross-examination in the Honolulu courtroom.

“I was totally blown away when I saw the path [Waltz] looked like him, acted exactly like him – it was like watching Walter,” Keane said during an early screening of the film. “It was a very emotional and traumatic experience when I first saw the movie. I just couldn’t believe it. I was really in shock for about two days.

“Margaret was so sweet and so inclusive,” Adams said at the event. “I felt a huge responsibility to play her with a lot of dignity and respect because I think she is a woman who has a lot of dignity and a lot of respect, not only for herself, but for others. “

On Twitter, Karaszewski noted Keane’s death and wrote, “We are all grateful to have spent so much time getting to know his beautiful spirit. It took a decade to bring Big eyes on the screen. But her story of surviving abuse was significant. She wanted the world to know the truth about her life and her art.

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