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Margaret Keane, painter of '60s big-eyed waifs, coming to Phyllis Morris Originals

March 25, 2010 |  6:02 am

San Francisco-based artist Margaret Keane is making a rare Los Angeles appearance -- her first in 42 years -- at a private reception Thursday. She's here to launch an exhibition of recent works and selected paintings from the collection of the late furniture designer Phyllis Morris. The exhibition is open to the public Friday through April 1 at Phyllis Morris Originals in West Hollywood.

Best known for painting wide-eyed, often teary waifs with equally sad pets, Margaret Keane was the long-unrecognized architect of the 1960s Keane art phenomenon. Inexpensive reproductions -- licensed and sold by her husband, who claimed to be their creator -- became part of the pop cultural landscape. Today, they are eagerly sought out as kitsch collectibles by a new generation of flea market and thrift shop devotees. 

Picture 2 Margaret and Walter were divorced in 1965. In 1985, a jury decreed that the works signed simply "Keane" were hers after her ex-husband failed to participate in a courtroom paint-off. 

After the split, Keane's work became richer and more sophisticated, referencing Pop and Art Nouveau. The painting shown in an invitation (pictured at right)  for a 1968 show at Phyllis Morris Originals reveals that Keane also had a taste for surrealism.

Morris commissioned more than two dozen oil paintings from her friend Keane, many of which will be exhibited for the first time. New oils also will be offered for sale, with prices starting at $11,000. Limited-edition prints are $850.

Phyllis Morris Originals, 655 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 289-6868.

-- David A. Keeps

Photos: Untitled Margaret Keane painting and gallery invitation; credit: Phyllis Morris Originals. Top right, "The Grape Dancer"; credit: Keane Eyes Gallery