Citizen Keane by Cletus Nelson and Adam Parfrey
Once upon a time, way back in the 1960s, Walter Keane was known as the man who painted the big-eyed waifs, but in turns out, he wasn’t really that man. It was in fact a woman, his wife, Margaret, who had painted the big-eyed children and Walter had perpetuated a lie. Margaret had been painting them the whole time, but the story did not come out until after the two had divorced.
Both Walter and Margaret were married before they met. They both divorced and later married to each other. They were both artists, or so it was thought. Walter Keane became a sensation. He wasn’t a classy artist; he was an artist for the masses. He sold posters and postcards and cheaper versions of his art for the every-day person to be able to afford. Despite the fact that Walter may or may not have actually been an artist he was definitely a promoter.
Walter lived large on the wealth of Margaret’s paintings, but Margaret became dissatisfied and asked for a separation. She recounts that she was too scared to say anything about the paintings actually being hers. The arrangement went on for some time after the marriage ended, but Margaret finally found the courage to say that the paintings were hers. Walter could never show up to paint something to prove that he could paint the big-eyed girls as well. He later became something of an alcoholic and ended up losing his third marriage as well.
Margaret enjoyed a renewal of interest in her art in her sixties and ended up being quite content, even if that wasn’t always the case.
What I liked
This story is so interesting. I’m glad it’s a book and it’s also a movie, which I have not seen yet. Artists, or scam artists, have made claims to the artwork of others to get personal gain. It’s happened all throughout history. People have taken credit for the work of others because the work was good and the other person knew they could get away with it.
While the story is a bit sad, because it’s obvious that Margaret was emotionally abused to an extent, it’s also a good story to tell because people need to know things like this happen. Why on Earth would you allow another person to take credit for your work? Well, if you’re terrified of that person, you might just let them do whatever the Hell they want just to keep them off your case. It’s called mental abuse. It happens to people and other people should know that it does happen to other people so they don’t feel alone if it happens to them.
What I didn’t like
Walter doesn’t sound like a nice guy. I’m sure he had his good points, as in he was a wonderful promoter and I’m sure he loved his family, but he did a lot of crappy stuff to people he supposedly loved. Look here, if you love someone, you’re not supposed to do crappy things to them like this. You’re not supposed to steal their dreams and take credit for their work or threaten them to keep quiet.
This was a very interesting story.
Has someone ever taken credit for your work, but you felt compelled to stay quiet about it?
Do you think Walter ever felt bad about what he did?