The Portraits

Staff member working in collections and putting a painting away

Rose O'Neill

James Montgomery Flagg, 18 Jun 1877 - 27 May 1960
Rose O'Neill, 25 Jun 1874 - 6 Apr 1944
c. 1914
Charcoal, graphite and crayon on illustration board
Image: 23.9 x 17.2cm (9 7/16 x 6 3/4")
Board: 30.5 x 21.4cm (12 x 8 7/16")
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6cm (18 x 14")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
©Cathy O'Brien
Object number
Exhibition Label
Famed illustrator James Montgomery Flagg was a fixture of New York's smart set, and he often sketched from life the figures he encountered. In 1914 he published The Well-Knowns, a book of his celebrity portraits, which included this image of illustrator Rose O'Neill. Despite Flagg's acerbic streak, no one could achieve softer, more sensuous effects from charcoal and pencil, and this drawing suggests his strong admiration for O'Neill. Giving a jaunty tilt to her head, he implies independence and brilliance as well as beauty. In 1909 O'Neill had become a phenomenon for her impish little cupids, called "kewpies," whose gestures she based on memories of a baby brother. They evolved into a marketing bonanza that lasted a quarter-century, generating the wildly popular kewpie dolls, as well as china, wallpaper, fabric, knickknacks, and even a Broadway musical.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection