Our cover this month, Portrait of Zsa Zsa Gabor by Margaret Keane, sold for $45,000 at Heritage Auctions’ The Estate of Zsa Zsa Gabor Signature Auction in Beverly Hills, Calif. on April 14, 2018. Margaret is famous for her “big-eyed” children paintings.
Margaret’s highly successful work was initially attributed to her husband, Walter Keane, but following their divorce, Margaret came forward publicly to claim credit. She ultimately prevailed after a Hawaii judge ordered a “paint-off” in court, and the jury decided in her favor. Walter declined to participate, citing a sore shoulder, but Margaret completed one of her signature paintings in just 53 minutes. Unfortunately, she never saw any money from the $4 million court award because by then, there was no money left due to Walter’s drinking problem.
When asked in a 2014 interview by The Guardian why she went along with Walter taking credit, Margaret revealed that she was scared of her ex-husband, whom she says even threatened to have her “knocked off” if she told anyone the truth, and she felt trapped.
According to Margaret, the sad-eyed children in her paintings became a theme as she became more miserable in her marriage. After her divorce, she stuck with the theme, but the children in her works appeared happier. Her ordeal is the subject of a 2014 Tim Burton biopic, appropriately titled Big Eyes.