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Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind the Big Eyes Paperback – June 10, 2014


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Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind the Big Eyes + Big Eyes: The Film, The Art + Big Eyes and All: The Unofficial Biography of Margaret Keane
Price for all three: $44.88

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Feral House (June 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936239957
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936239955
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This stunning investigative report pulls back the curtain of maudlin decorative kitsch to reveal the hedonistic and depraved stylings of a true american mountebank” — Frank Kozik

About the Author

Cletus Nelson: Cletus Nelson is a contributor to books published by Process Media, The Disinformation Company, and Creation Press.
Adam Parfrey is the editor of Apocalypse Culture, Apocalypse Culture II, It's a Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, the Postwar Pulps, and co-editor of Sin-a-Rama: Sleaze Paperbacks of the '60s. He is the co-writer (with Craig Heimbichner) of Ritual America: Secret Brotherhoods and their Influence on American Society, and (with Maja D'Aoust) The Secret Source: The Law of Attraction and its Hermetic Influence Throughout the Ages, (with Brendan Mullen and Don Bolles) Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and The Germs. Adam also wrote the compilation Cult Rapture, which contained his early feature article on the crazy Keane story.

Customer Reviews

In other words, the book has material that could be used to produce a better book.
Nelson Cespedes
Very well written and shares both sides with information that pretty much lets Walter explain his side in a way that makes you realize how twisted he is.
Dana Sabo
The book tells of how Margaret Keane finally proved that she was the real artist and what followed after she finally got her dues.
Dolores

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Chris Estey on June 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
I'd first read the almost unbelievable story of 1960s "Big Eye" artists Walter Keane and his wife Margaret in a great short expose by Adam Parfrey in the 90s, collected in the superb anthology Cult Rapture. It was a remarkable tale of art hustle and cultural chicanery, drawing on the energy of a certain kind of Mad Man and posing profound questions about what art means in the everyday lives of Americans. But the significance of the original report's twists and turns needed to be expanded, with greater contextualization, as it is more relevant now than ever. The book Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind the Big Eyes by Parfrey and Cletus Nelson deftly fills in all the outlandish details, updating the narrative of an art-making couple doomed by success, out of their time and yet so influential upon the world they lived in. If you go to "middle-brow" art shows these days and wonder what the attraction is to all those big eyed girls, and all those repeated tropes of consumerism and dark pop surrealist imagery, it all started with the Keanes. For better or worse; but you will be illuminated about modern illustration by reading this biography. A really nice selection of their (or rather, her) best artwork is published within as well. Highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dolores on June 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
This enthralling and well written book blows the lid off this little known story of the creators of Kitsch.

The story is crazy! Walter Keane made his wife sign his name to her paintings and used her talent to gain fame while she was forced to stay home and paint crying children in the basement! The book tells of how Margaret Keane finally proved that she was the real artist and what followed after she finally got her dues. The book is the comprehensive story of the Keanes whose lives will play out on the big screen in Tim Burton's forthcoming Big Eyes out this winter.

The book includes tons of great art and photographs as can be expected from the wonderful Feral House Publishing.

For fans of:
Art history
Feminism
Counter culture
Hollywood history
Kitsch
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard Matthew Southworth on December 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
CITIZEN KEANE is a window into the art world turned on its head. Walter Keane was a highly-motivated scammer who told a little lie that grew bigger and bigger until "his" art was as ubiquitous as McDonalds. This portrait of his deception and manipulation, not to mention the suffering it caused his wife, the real artist, is fascinating. The lengths he was required to go to in order to maintain the illusion must have been crushing.

But equally important, both to the tone of the book and to the reader's analysis of the entire charade, is the question of whether this "art" was really Art at all or just schlock in art's clothing. The fact that so many people responded to the work indicates there's something of value in it, and yet, millions of people respond to Lay's Potato Chips, too. Lay's Chips are superbly marketed; it's not that they're great potato chips but that they're omnipresent.

Margaret Keane, who showed real skill, even when applied to the material in question, is the real enigma at the center of the book. Would her work have reached greater levels of artistry had it been applied elsewhere? Or was Keane the instigator and challenger, through his deceit, that drove her to become an artist/"artist"? This conundrum, this portrait of a complex marriage and the commercialized success of a huge lie, is food for thought. Who'd have guessed that those waif portraits would pose such complex questions?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I chose this book because I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie starring Amy Adams. I always feel if she is connected with something it will be good. This trailer took me by surprise because I thought to myself "really, there's an interesting story and mystery and intrigue behind the big eyes paintings"? I grew up when they were popular and they seemed innocent enough that I never imagined there was a story there. Boy is there! Betrayal, deception, fame, power, sex, abuse, addiction, chutzpah, talent, ego, and finally finding strength. It's fascinating to see how far some people will go. No one is totally unlikeable...but Walter Keane comes close in this book. His gall is amazing. Thank you Margaret Keane for finally finding your strength and your voice. You always had the talent. This book is not only for those who remember the paintings and liked or disliked them, but for anyone who is fascinated by human beings, the human condition, and what they are capable of, good and bad.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E. Martin Olson on January 3, 2015
Format: Paperback
This is the craziest, most amusing biography of an "artist" I've read in a while. What a hilarious, vindictive, talentless low-life con man Walter Keane became. After he completely svengalied his mousy wife Margaret into doing all the work, he took all the credit for her paintings while he partied with Jack Kerouak, Jerry Lewis and Kim Novak, threw orgies (without Margaret) and was such an angry drunk, he had to hire a bodyguard to follow him when he made his rounds to bars around town.

All Walter had ever painted were backgrounds. Margaret created the actual paintings, and invented their "big eyes" trade-mark. (When Walter was asked to paint in public, he ether didn't show up, or he claimed he had a "sore arm.") All the funnier that their work is so patently BAD. New York Times art critic John Canaday ridiculed Keane's paintings (which he didn't paint), calling them "the very definition of tasteless hack work." How great when an art biography gives you belly laughs. The story of Walter Keane is just that funny and preposterous. Reading this book and Parfrey's seminal article on Keane, the "Big Eyes" screenwriters must have surely howled and seen instantly what a terrific movie this would make.

The story would be depressing if Walter Keane wasn't such a colorful and hysterical con man, and if what he was selling wasn't so incredibly lame. The book characterizes him as one of the best art salesmen in history, taking their worthless vision and transforming it through sheer chutzpah into a multi-million dollar artistic con game. Like Dali, Walter Keane was a clever and colorful front man, but unlike Dali, without a shred of talent. Walter rode his meek wife's coattails while he partied through the 60's like it was 1999.
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