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Thursday, July 20, 2006


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Bio Summary

Early Life/Family


Career Outline

Comments On Style







Related Links

Bibliographic References


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At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Martha Melton said...

(Comment 1 of 3)


Born - Wilkes Barre, PA 1874

Died - Springfield, MO 1944

Artist, Illustrator, Cartoonist, Sculptor,Author, Suffragist

Bio Summary
Rose began her career in New York City at the age of 18. She took a portfolio of her drawings around to publishing houses and was hired as the first female staff artist at Puck Magazine. She became one of the most sought after illustrators during the Golden Age of Illustration. She was married and divorced twice. She did work under the name O'Neill Latham at the turn of the 20th century. She also worked under the name O'Neill Wilson in the early 1900's. She never had children. In 1909 she created "The Kewpie" which became an utter phenomenon and is what she is best known for. She continued to work as an artist until her retirement in 1936.

Early Life/Family
Rose O'Neill was the second of 7 children born to William Patrick and Alice Asenath O'Neill. She was raised in an Irish Catholic family, but was steeped in Irish folklore and Greek mythology. Her father moved the family from a comfortable middle class existence in Wilkes Barre Pennsylvania to a sod house on the plains of Nebraska and then later to Omaha, where she spent her childhood. William Patrick O’Neill was a bohemian book and art dealer and her mother “Meemee” taught school and piano to supplement the family income. Her family was poor and they lived one step ahead of the debt collectors. She won a five dollar gold piece at the age of 14 by submitting a drawing entitled
"Temptation Leading Into an Abyss". Although her father intended for all of the O'Neill children to excel in the arts, Rose was supposed to have been a stage actress. Although she briefly toured the country in a play at the age of 15, she was destined to be an artist. When Rose was 18, her mother sold the family cow to send her to New York so she could find work as an illustrator. The family counted on her success to help support the family, which she did for her entire life.

Rose was a naturally talented, self-taught artist. She learned her craft from copying plates from her father's vast library. She was particularly fond of Dore'. She also practiced drawing from her environment. After Rose began a successful career in New York, she studied art in the early 1900's at the Academie Julian in Paris.

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Martha Melton said...

Career Outline
At the age of 14 Rose began selling spot illustrations to newspapers as far away as Denver and Chicago. At the age of 18 she began her career as an illustrator on staff at Puck Magazine and for other publications such as Harpers Bazar, Colliers, Truth, Life, Woman's Home Companion, Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping to name a few. She was also highly sought after as a book illustrator. She illustrated her own novels and books of poetry as well as for her second husband, writer Harry Leon Wilson. In 1909, she created the Kewpie comics and in 1912 the merchandising boom that followed made her very wealthy. In her words she "sold toys to buy gods" which enabled her to work on her personal fine art which she called her "Sweet Monsters". Her mentor, Auguste Rodin, encouraged her to exhibit them in Paris in 1921. She exhibited them in New York the following year. She continued work as an illustrator until 1936 when she retired to her Ozarks mansion, Bonniebrook.

(Comments 2 of 3)

Comments on Style
At the turn of the 20th century, Rose O'Neill's line work was heavily inspired by the art nouveau movement. She had a very unique style and signature. Her "Sweet Monsters" were made of intricate webs resembling sculpture more than drawing.

At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Martha Melton said...

(Comments 3 of 3)

She worked with many illustrators from the Golden Age of Illustration and both influenced and was influenced by her coworkers.

Rose encouraged all would be artists. There was a restaurant in Greenwich Village where starving artists could have a meal and Rose would pick up the tab. She also had an entourage of artists living off of her at her estate in Connecticut, many who had very little to no talent. When asked to give her opinion on the work of some of these hangers on, she was quoted as saying,"I Didn't have the heart to tell them what I really thought. It would be like stepping on a kitten".

There was correspondence between Walt Disney and Rose O'Neill about doing a Disney film featuring the Kewpies, which never did materialize. Rose was the first artist to keep the license to her creation. She and her sister and business manager oversaw a merchandising empire.

Related Links

Bibliographical References
Rose O'Neill - The Girl Who Loved to Draw by Linda Brewster c 2009 and published by Boxing Day Books
American Illustrator Rose O'Neill by J. L. Wilkerson c 2001 Acorn Books
The Story of Rose O'Neill - An Autobiography edited by Miriam Formanek-Brunell c 1997 by University of Missouri Press
Kewpies and Beyond - The World of Rose O'Neill by Shelley Armitage c 1994 University Press of Mississippi
The One Rose- Mother of the Immortal Kewpies by Rowena Godding Ruggles c 1964 Rowena Godding Ruggles
Titans and Kewpies - The Life and Art of Rose O'Neill by Ralph McCanse c1968 Vantage Press

Contributors to This Listing
Bonniebrook Historical Society


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