Friday, November 9, 2012

Rose O'Neill's Fashions

The Fashion Style of Rose O'Neill

Rose preferred to wear flowing robe-dresses which she called an aura or a mantle. Ozark natives on the other hand called them “flyin’-squirrel dresses.” Her garments might not have looked like anything other women were wearing at the time, but they allowed Rose to have the movement needed to create works of art. Other women of the time period were wearing corsets in which they could barely breathe in let alone create art! In 1915 to The New York Press Rose said: “The first step is to free women from the yoke of modern fashions and modern dress. How can they hope to compete with men when they are boxed up tight in the clothes that are worn today?” 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hall of Famous Missourians

The Bonniebrook Historical Society has been working hard to get Rose Cecil O’Neill nominated to the Hall of Famous Missourians (located in Jefferson City, Missouri in the 3rd Floor Rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol). It is surprising that she has yet to be nominated because of the fact that several of Rose’s acquaintances are already honored there. Thomas Hart Benton, John Neihardt, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Walt Disney and Mark Twain are just a few of the individuals that she knew who already have a bronze bust in their image located there. Rose’s Kewpies were on the same level of popularity as that of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, and reportedly Thomas Hart Benton said that Rose was the world’s greatest illustrator. There are over 40 bronze busts depicting prominent Missourians who are honored for their achievements and contributions to the state, and if you think that Rose should be honored as well, please leave a comment on this post explaining why you support Rose to be considered for this prestigious award. We would greatly appreciate your support as the Hall is visited by thousands of school children and vacationing families every year, and if Rose was featured there it would assist in our educating about the many accomplishments of the genius of the arts, Rose Cecil O’Neill.  

All comments received will be mailed in November to the newly elected Missouri Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

Before leaving a comment, take a look at a sample of Rose's accomplishments: 

"Embrace of the Tree" Sculpture

Illustration from Good Housekeeping Magazine

Illustration from Harper's Magazine

Illustration from Puck Magazine

"The Kiss" Illustration

Rose was a strong supporter of the woman suffrage movement

In 1995, the Missouri House of Representatives honored Rose O'Neill with the prestigious Missourian Award. It is now time for her to be honored in the Hall of Famous Missourians.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ho-Ho - The Little Laughing Buddha

Almost thirty years after Rose O’Neill dreamed up the idea for the Kewpie, she came up with one last idea before she retired: the Ho-Ho. The Ho-Hos look like little laughing Buddha figures. They have a very unique laughing expression in which Rose O’Neill says that she had the idea for for years. Rose said, “year by year, as the world grew less and less funny, the laugh got clearer in my mind. It is the sort of laugh that makes a laugh in the beholder, as kindness makes the warmth of returning kindness.  Ho-Ho is a sort of little clown-Buddha, all his stored-up wisdom finding its last word in the supreme wisdom of laughter. This kind of laughter is man’s final defense against despair.” It is sad that the Ho-Ho was Rose’s last creation because it was not very successful.

This photo of Rose holding a Ho-Ho was taken shortly before she passed away.

These are a few of the Ho-Hos that are on display at the Bonniebrook museum in Walnut Shade, MO.

View of the back of a Ho-Ho.

View of the bottom of a Ho-Ho (signed by Rose's sister Kallista).

Advertising postcard for the Ho-Ho.

Rose sitting in the woods with her last creations.

 These photos were taken at Bonniebrook and show the area where the Ho-Hos were made.

This is the actual buffer used to smooth out the Ho-Hos. You can view it in person by taking a tour of the Bonniebrook house which is located in Walnut Shade, MO.

Monday, June 25, 2012

100th Anniversary of the Kewpie Doll

The Kewpie Doll went into production in Germany in 1912. Now the year is 2012, and the Kewpie Doll is still being produced! The Kewpie did not start out as a doll, but rather as one of Rose’s illustrations. Kewpies showed up in Rose’s short stories that appeared in The Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Home Companion, and Good Housekeeping Magazines. Her illustrations of Kewpies were a hit; she began receiving letters from children who requested that she made a Kewpie that they could “hold in their hands.” Not only did fans of the Kewpie think that Rose should make Kewpie Dolls, but toy factories began to approach her about it as well. Since she had already thought about making the dolls herself, it wasn’t long before she modeled a standing Kewpie in plasticine, and shortly after that the Kewpie Dolls were being mass produced in Germany. Soon after the dolls were made, Kewpies could be found on anything from tea sets to radiator caps! Rose sure knew how to market her Kewpies, and the public was happy to see them appear outside of the magazines where they first saw them.

First page of Rose's letter in which she pitched her "Kewpie" Idea

Illustration out of Good Housekeeping Magazine

Kewpie Doll

Box for the Kewpie Dolls

Rose O'Neill at Bonniebrook circa 1930

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rose O'Neill's Faerie Gathering at Bonniebrook

Calling all faeries, elves, trolls, fauns, their cousins and ALL WHO BELIEVE!

Join us for an enchanting time at Bonniebrook on Saturday and Sunday, September 24 and 25, 2011 for Rose O'Neill's Faerie Gathering, a celebration of Rose O'Neill's art, Irish heritage and folklore.  Eight groups of musicians/entertainers will be featured including Elvendrums, EznDil, Eire and Brimstone, Irish Jammers, Beltana Spellsinger, Stormy Weather, Withe and Stone, and Gypsy Sol.  Among the activities planned;  the art of sculpting faeries by artist Kent Melton, storytelling, seminars, a faerie house building competition, and various craft and vendor booths.  The newly renovated gallery and museum will be open both days to attendees.  Made In The Shade will offer food and beverages until 6:00 p.m.  For your comfort, feel free to bring blankets, lawn chairs, picnic baskets and coolers to enjoy a light repast on the lawn.  Costumes are encouraged! 

Saturday hours10 to 10

Sweet Monsters Ball and Masquerade 6 to 10  -  featuring Stormy Weather & Eire and Brimstone - "Rock and Roll with Celtic Soul"

Sunday hours 10 to 6

1 day pass - $15.00           2 day pass - $20.00         Children 12 and under free

Bonniebrook is located 9 miles north of Branson, MO east of Hwy 65 at mile marker 20.2

For more information and updates visit http://

Faeries, Elves and Friends from the 2010 Gathering

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sweet Monsters

Rose O'Neill led a fascinating life.  She did everything on her own terms.  Married and divorced twice by 1909, O'Neill chose to be childless.  She supported her large family and paid to educate her brothers and sisters.  O'Neill is best remembered for inventing the Kewpie character and the merchandising boom that followed. 

The income from her illustrations and Kewpie merchandise allowed her the freedom to study art in Paris and create what she named her "Sweet Monsters".  These were shown in Paris in 1921 and again in New York in 1922.

This is how she described her creative process:
"When the guests were gone I used to draw at night.  Now that I had plenty of money I did not illustrate as much but let my hand have free play.  I would pull up the big rocking chair under the light and let myself go.  I am ashamed to be seen when I suffer or when I toil.  In the latter case my consciousness has gone away.  I leave my cadaver behind and I am embarrassed like a suicide.  Often I would have no plan before beginning.  The plan seemed hidden in the hand itself.  Then satyr-like heads and half-beastly shapes would appear on the paper and the Idea would loom.  Marvelous nights!  With the sound of passers in the Square growing few -- perhaps a moon crossing the sky beyond my large high windows and the rustling images of ancestral things surging through my head and projecting themselves upon my paper all wrapped in mesh of endless convolutions.  Late in the night I would get out of the "Drunken Sailor" (her rocking chair) and, half drunk myself with visions, lay my drawing or drawings (sometimes there would be several) in the portfolio and stagger off to bed.  Another monster had been born.

I seemed to be entranced by the idea of the rise of man from animal origins and was always drawing low slant-browed beings that pointed the road behind us.  These beings charmed me.  They seemed to have the freshness of leaves, the rugged well-being of the rocks themselves.  I made them with great necks curved like a stallion's.  We called these drawings "the monsters".  Meemie (mother) complained of them.  She had a literal eye.  I made these drawings in an intricate network of lines with a small brush and India ink.  Meemie said she did not like to see the figures "all tied up in a web."  I said, "Why make it with a few lines when you can make it with many?"  The web of lines took time.  And that was the fun of it.  Not to conclude -- to go on deliriously sculpturing the form, prolonging the delight.  While I drew them, I had ecstatic images of the up-surge of life from the "ancestral slime".  This progression seemed to me the epic of epics.  People used to wonder how the hand that made the Kewpies could bring forth those monstrous shapes with their mysterious whisperings of natural forces and eons of developing time."

O'Neill studying art in Paris circa 1906


The Red Fauness

Capri 1933

Fugitive Drawing

Man and His Ancestor

The Lost Cherub

The Lost Cherub Detail

The Lost Cherub Detail

Paris Exhibition Catalog 1921

New York Exhibition Catalog 1922