Rose O’Neill was a self-trained artist and poet who built a very successful career as a magazine and book illustrator. She is well-known as the inventor of the Kewpie, an elfish and androgynous cupid with a top-knot head, large eyes, and cute little grin. Kewpies were a consumer craze that lasted decades and made Ms. O’Neill a millionaire and famous throughout the world.
Born in 1874, Rose and her family moved to Nebraska at an early age, where she grew up and cultivated her many talents. At age 14, she entered and won an art contest held by the Omaha World-Herald with a Dore-esque and sophisticated drawing, titled Temptation Leading into the Abyss, beginning her long career as an illustrator. McCall's, Puck, Harper's, Women's Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Jello-O, and the Kodak company are just a few of the publications and corporate clients that commissioned Rose O'Neill.
Like so many Nebraskans before and after her, Rose outgrew the Midwest market and furthered her career and fortunes by leaving for New York when she turned 19. While Rose never returned to Nebraska, and her spriritual home will always be at Bonniebrook, in the Ozarks of Missouri, the University of Nebraska is proud to host a collection of her many beautiful illustrations, comics, paintings, and ephemera to honor our state's small contribution as a starting point to Rose's outstanding artistic contributions to the world.