The film opens with Andy Warhol’s take on the paintings: "It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn't like it.” However, as seen in the film, there were detractors like the critics for the New York Times who were indeed merciless about their distaste for the paintings. For example, Walter did indeed select “Tomorrow Forever” to be displayed at the New York World’s Fair, and fair organizers did indeed refuse to show it after John Canaday of the New York Times dismissed it in print as “the very definition of tasteless hack work.”

Decades later, the paintings would be described by Walter Keane’s biographer, journalist Adam Parfrey, as "saccharine kitsch madness," and by New York Times reporter Katherine Bishop as "maudlin popular art."

Regardless, even after their general popularity abated in the mid-’60s, they were still sought after decades later. Alternative rocker Matthew Sweet (best known for the acclaimed 1991 power pop album, Girlfriend) is an avid collector who wound up serving as a consultant for the film, and before director Tim Burton was offered Big Eyes, he was already an owner of Keane paintings.

In 1992 Margaret opened the Keane Eyes Gallery, and when asked about the response, she said that "People either hate my paintings or they love them. There does not seem to be much middle ground."