While the fame and millions came from the Kewpie Doll, she was a cartoonist famed for her wit—the first female cartoonist for a major American magazine. She was an illustrator for stories in major American magazines, in those days before photographs were used. She was a portraitist. She created dark and brooding paintings, the Mistress/Master monsters that were exhibited at the Salon des Beaux Arts in Paris. She was a feminist and suffragette. She was a novelist, four novels published, and a poet with one volume published.
The Kewpie image passed into the national consciousness. In The New York Times this week in a review of a biography of the photographer Berenice Abbot, the author quotes Impresario Lincoln Kirstein’s description of Abbot as having “enormous Kewpie eyes.” Just this past month the headline in New York Stage Review of Steven Suskin’s review of Bernadette Peters: “HELLO DOLLY!: BERNADETTE IS THE PLUPERFECT KEWPIE DOLLY.” In the article he wrote, “…Peters is indeed a musical comedy doll. Not in a sexist manner, mind you; something of a Kewpie doll (which was a cupid-derived cherub, initially devised as a cartoon character in 1909 and memorialized as a popular toy).”
The Springfield Art Museum has brought together a national exhibition of O’Neill’s art that opens on April 13 and runs through August 5, 2018. Works have been secured from local private collectors, the O’Neill family, Bonniebrook Historical Society and museums across the country. The Bonniebrook house burned in 1947 and was rebuilt by the Historical Society starting in 1990. It and the grounds (Rose and other family members are buried on the property) are open to the public April through October and well worth the short drive south on Highway 65. Sarah Buhr, the curator for the exhibition, has published a lavish and informative catalog.
For more than 25 years Marcia Haseltine has loved and been interested in the works and life of Rose O’Neill. For 10 years she labored on writing a one-woman show on O’Neill that was first produced by Springfield Contemporary Theatre in January 2016. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, tt will be repeated at the Springfield Art Museum, Friday-Sunday, April 13-15, 2018.
Marcia Haseltine is well known to Springfield theatre goers. She has given many memorable performances for Little Theatre and more recently for Contemporary Theatre. Particular favorites have been Miss Hannigan in Annie and Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst for SLT; then Maria Callas in Master Class and Stevie in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia for SCT. She also has acted for Maple’s Repertory Theatre, Macon, Missouri, MSU’s Tent Theatre, and most recently as Maxine in Maxine’s Christmas Carol, at the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center, Branson.
Three worthy and interesting activities for this spring: attend Saving Rose O’Neill April 13-15; see Springfield Art Museum’s extensive national exhibition Frolic of the Mind; make the short drive south on Highway 65 to Bonniebrook. You will enjoy them all.