I know that like fashion, art trends tend to repeat every few decades. There's certainly no better example than the recent and growing resurgence of interest in Big-Eyed Waif paintings.
In the 60s and 70s Margaret D.H. Keane's paintings were all the rage. In case you think I meant Walter Keane's paintings, I didn't. You see, although they were signed as Walter, and sold as his, the paintings were actually done by his wife Margaret. Not wanting to relinquish the rights to the artwork, Walter and Margaret's divorce proceeding went all the way to Federal court. At the hearing, Margaret painted in front of the judge to prove her point. In 1965, the courts sided with her, enabling her to paint under her own name.
You may think of these big-eyed paintings as 'retro' or 'kitsch' but considering original oil paintings of Keane's go for upwards of $25,000, that's a pretty penny to pay for "novelty" art.
But what caught my attention, in addition to the publication of an art book celebrating this genre called Big-Eyed Masters, is another newly published book of works by contemporary artist Sas Christian.
cover of Sas Christian's Looking In
Christian's paintings are uncannily similar in both subject matter and composition to Keane's but she insists that her paintings are not inspired this artist. Instead she says- and I quote from her own biography, "She was never inspired by one person in particular, however now the artists she most admires would be Bouguereau, Tamara De Lempicka, Mark Ryden... Sas draws inspiration from everyday occurences, movies and music."
It's hard to believe Christian is not aware of her works' likeness to Keane's. Perhaps her more macabre treatment of the subject matter is why she likens herself to Ryden. Some of her paintings incorporate blood or slightly sadist sexual imagery that was absent from Keane's sad and teary paintings. It is also possible that because of Christian's youth and venue (she was born in London) she's not aware of Keane's work. But even more odd to me is the lack of parallels drawn between the two by her publishers and other art critics.
Both artists work is very soulful with the subject directly confronting the viewer. Neither paints 'happy' portraits and both paint youthful subjects, often with pets. There's even an asian flavor to some of each artists works.
Granted Christian's work is less painterly and more illustrative as well as more 'realistic' if I can use that term loosely. Clearly both artists are talented and prolific and their work has a certain eerie appeal. But it's hard to deny the similarities.
Below are some examples of Keane's work from over 30 years ago side by side with Christian's present work.
More of Margaret Keane's work above, click to enlarge
More of Sas Christian's work above, click to enlarge
As much as I enjoy Christian's work, it looks pretty derivative to me.
All those in favor say "eye".
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