Rose O’Neill was a self-trained artist who periodically lived in the Missouri Ozarks throughout her adult life. She built a successful career as a magazine and book illustrator and, at a young age, became the best-known and highest-paid female commercial illustrator in the United States. She also wrote novels and poetry. O’Neill earned a fortune and international fame by creating the Kewpie, the most widely known cartoon character until Mickey Mouse.
Five Rose O’Neill Kewpie Dolls Price Realized: $235.00 Cowans Auction
“The idea grew from a baby brother when I was a little girl. I made drawings of him while I played with him. All his little looks and gestures came out later in the Kewpie.”
Rose elaborated on the story of how the Kewpies came into being. While Rose was on an extended stay at Bonniebrook in 1909, the Kewpie was born. Rose recounted, “In illustrating love stories I had a way of making decorative head and tail pieces with Cupids. Edward Bok of the Ladies’ Home Journal cut out a number of these and sent them to me. He asked me if I could make a series of the little creatures and said that he would find someone to make accompanying verses. I replied that I would make the verses up myself and wrote him an illustrated letter in which I created the character of the Kewpie. I invented the name for little Cupid, spelling it with a K because it seemed funnier. I thought about the Kewpies so much that I had a dream about them where they were all doing acrobatic pranks on the coverlet of my bed.”