If I told you that Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) gained fame as the creator of the Kewpie, you might be inclined to dismiss her as a frivolous artist (I know I did). But O’Neill created much more than the merchandising boom that made her wealthy, first as Puck magazine’s first female staff artist and later with her own shows of what she called the “Sweet Monsters” in Paris and New York. The Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum and Homestead captures and life and times of this remarkable woman.
Self-taught, O’Neill produced almost 5,500 drawings, which appeared in magazines, her own illustrated books, posters and advertisements, as well as many paintings and watercolors. Ahead of her time, she was a die-hard suffragette, got married and divorced twice, and owned homes in Greenwich Village, Westport CT., and Capri in Italy. Generous to a fault (she supported friends and her family), she died impoverished but never defeated at the age of 69.
Bonniebrook is a recreation of her family home (the original burned in a fire after her death), named after the bubbling brook that passes by and considered a mansion at the time of its construction in the early 1900s with its running water and electricity. In addition to touring the Bonniebrook and its gardens, where O’Neill spent the last years of her life, you can also see the gallery that contains her artwork, shown on a rotating basis, and the Kewpie Museum.
Bonniebrook is 9 miles north of Branson, just off Highway 65. It’s close to the Branson Zipline Canopy Tours; if ziplining isn’t your thing, this is a worthwhile way to spend an hour or two while other members in your group swing through the woods.