49ers Museum Features Margaret Keane’s “Big Eyes”-style Painting of Founder Tony Morabito

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The 49ers Museum presented by Sony at Levi’s® Stadium has a Hollywood connection right in its lobby.

And, no, we’re not talking about Colin Kaepernick’s 3D image welcoming you into the building.

A Margaret Keane painting of original San Francisco 49ers owner Tony Morabito hangs outside the museum’s Morabito Theater.

Keane, of course, is the subject of the in-theaters movie “Big Eyes,” starring Amy Adams, which memorializes the artist’s unique style and unusual conflict with her husband. Walter Keane publicly took credit for creating his wife’s art before being sued by her for slander.

The authorship of this work was never in doubt. Keane’s “MDH” signature is in the upper-lefthand corner of the Morabito portrait, and the team founder’s eyes reflect her patented style.

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“The eyes I draw on my children are an expression of my own deepest feelings,” Keane once said. “Eyes are windows into the soul.”

The painting is on loan to the museum by 49ers Hall of Fame running back Joe Perry’s widow, Donna, in whose home the work hung for several decades.

Perry, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher before Frank Gore came along, enjoyed an especially close relationship with Morabito. Before the 1948 season, for example, he stayed with the 49ers, accepting $5,000 less than the St. Louis Rams were offering, because of his relationship with the owner. “He became like a father to me,” Perry was quoted as saying. “I never regretted my decision.”

Keane, who currently resides in nearby Sonoma County, was also commissioned to paint Perry and fellow 49ers Hall of Fame member Leo Nomellini. These paintings are the property of Canton, Ohio’s Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Some of her art can also be seen at an exhibit in Santa Clara’s Triton Museum of Art.

To see the 49ers Museum’s unique Keane work, plan your visit here.

Research contributed by Museum specialist Beth Atlas.



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