By Thomas Edmondson and Sarah Buhr Heugh-Edmondson Conservation Services, LLC, Kansas City, MO Springfield Art Museum
Before Mickey Mouse, there was the Kewpie doll – a much beloved elf-child created by illustrator Rose O’Neill. The Kewpie was introduced to the world in 1909 in a cartoon published in the Ladies’ Home Journal. The frolics and impish pursuits of the Kewpies soon became so popular that they moved off the page 1 and into doll form, eventually finding their way onto objects as disparate as fine china, door knockers, chocolates, and hood ornaments. Their subsequent popularity made O’Neill a millionaire.
However, the Kewpie doll was just one of the many creative pursuits of Rose O’Neill. She was also an illustrator, author, poet, painter, sculptor, inventor, songwriter, pianist, suffragist, bohemian, and businesswoman. She maintained various homes – New York, Connecticut, the Missouri Ozarks, and Capri, Italy – where she entertained and supported the likes of Martha Graham, Kahlil Gibran, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Isadora Duncan, and many others. Twice-divorced, she was a cultural reformer who advocated for women’s suffrage and dress reform. Her endeavors span across media and material, personifying a game she invented – “Frolic of the Mind” – where one jumped from topic to topic, following the creative trajectory of one’s thoughts
A lover of wordplay, O’Neill named her creations “kewpies” as a play on “Cupid” – the Roman god of love, known as a prankster. She gave her Kewpies mischievous personalities, but rather than play pranks on people, they were tasked to ‘do good deeds in a funny way.’ The Kewpie was the first novelty toy distributed around the world. O’Neill wrote four Kewpie books,1 published several Kewpie Coloring Books, and in later years even operated a brick and mortar Kewpie doll shop in New York.2
O’Neill’s Kewpie fame allowed her to live a lavish lifestyle on her own terms with extensive travel, multiple homes, fine art and antiques, but her generous nature directed many of her millions to those in need – from steadfast support of her large family to starving artists all over the world. She retired to the Ozarks in the 1940s and died, almost penniless, having practically given away most of her fortune.
Description: This is a group of six artist’s proofs for the weekly Sunday full-page color section of the comics drawn and colored by O’Neill, illustrating the antics and adventures of the Kewpies as told in verse, also by O’Neill, that were published in 1918. They are printed in black ink and colored in varying degrees with watercolor pigments. All are on an off-white mechanical wood pulp newsprint paper support approximately 22” x 17” in size. There is a delineated masthead panel at the top of each page, three with fairly straightforward black borders, and three with more decorative and colored outlines; and four have colored embellishments depicting Kewpies in various playful or sweetly innocent activities. The masthead panels for two are blank. All panels are labeled “Color Section” at the top, and are dated at the bottom. All of the pages are titled between the masthead panel and the main illustration panel. The artist copyrighted four pages in the bottom right corner of each illustration panel, one is copyrighted in the bottom left corner and one at the bottom center of the panel. One comic has a graphite editorial notation in the right bottom margin, “note black spot – / take out”, with a line drawn into the design to the printed spot. Another also has a graphite editorial notation in the upper right margin, “Blue snow”, with lines drawn to two areas that are colored brown. Each of the pages is numbered in graphite in the right top margin. One comic has a graphite inscription in cursive on the verso upper left corner: “[Wm] J. Habel / 2366 Grand Concourse / Bronx, N.Y. City”. The artist incorporated her name into most of the little vignettes, often in a manner that related directly to what is being depicted in the illustration.
Condition: All of the paper supports are soiled overall recto and verso, ranging from a thin gray veil to heavily soiled. Four pages have a pattern of fold/crease lines throughout that may have been put in when the pages were sent to the artist for coloring after the initial printing. This is suggested by how the applied pigments are caught in disturbed paper fibers with some localized and small spots of bleeding. All of the pages have varying degrees of dog-eared and/or missing corners, and crumpled top and bottom margins and edge tears. One illustration has had the upper left quadrant/corner torn off and mended back on with a modern pressure sensitive adhesive tape, #.5 & .6 have corresponding edge tears in the left bottom margin, and one page has an edge tear in the left center of the top margin that extends about 2 inches into the sheet to the top border of the masthead panel. All of the supports have some degree of discoloration and/or staining. The soiling and discoloration/staining are indications of acid contamination, which is also likely as an inherent vice from the paper manufacturing process. There are ink and watercolor handling smudges and splatters in the margins and rectos of four pages, some of which is not necessarily damage as it must have happened during the printing. The same is true where there is strikethrough and/or transfer of the printing ink.
All of the applied pigments appear to be in good condition with no obvious fading. Random spot-testing of the watercolors for water sensitivity were inconclusive, with the reds ranging from stable to water sensitive. As mentioned above, where the watercolors appear blotchy along creases and fold lines where the paper fibers are disturbed should not be considered damage but rather evidence of the artist’s working process.
Conclusions/Rationale: Although some of the pieces are more soiled than others, all are in need of thorough dry surface cleaning to make them more suited to handling, proper storage, and display. All six pages would benefit greatly from some level of washing to reduce acidity and some discoloration/staining, but this will be somewhat limited due to expected solubility issues with some of the pigments, which will require additional testing before proceeding. Fold lines and creases in four of the pages are disfiguring but since they are most likely evidence of how the pages were handled during the creation process, efforts to minimize them should be carefully executed so that this evidence is not totally removed and yet leave the pages more aesthetically enhanced. Dog-eared corners and other fold-overs should be relaxed and flattened. Pressure sensitive adhesive tape mends should be removed, and all tears should be properly repaired. The goal of this conservation project is to address the condition issues that have been identified in such a way that will protect the art historical elements/properties while optimizing the aesthetic properties. Stay tuned for the completion of this fun project!
1.The Kewpies and Dotty Darling (1912), The Kewpies, Their Book (1913), The Kewpie Kutouts (1914) and The Kewpies and the Runaway Baby (1928).
2. Rose O’Neill’s Kewpie Shop opened at No. 646 A. Madison Avenue, New York, New York in 1925.
JOB DESCRIPTION: Associate Conservator or Conservator of Objects, Grade K or M (exempt)
REPORTS TO: Head of Conservation
SUPERVISES: no one
SPECIFICATIONS: Degree from an accredited conservation program or its equivalent and a minimum of 5 years experience in Objects conservation is required. The applicant should also be familiar with and adhere to the American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice. Compensation will be commensurate with experience and will have a starting range in the mid-$50,000s (associate conservator) to the low-$70,000s (conservator) yearly with comprehensive benefits.
JOB PURPOSE: The Saint Louis Art Museum seeks a collegial, collaborative, experienced, and energetic objects conservator to join its dynamic conservation team. SLAM’s encyclopedic collection consists of works in a wide-range of media spanning ancient to contemporary artistic practice from a variety of cultures. An ideal candidate will have a minimum of 5 years experience (for Associate Conservator) or 8 years (for Conservator) in objects conservation treatment techniques and be capable of collaborating with other conservation staff to solve unique preservation challenges. A successful candidate will relish the opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues inside and outside the conservation department to facilitate the conservation and preservation of diverse types of objects. They will possess a high level of attention to detail in the treatment, documentation, and general preservation that such works require. The candidate will also have a good sense of project management, conscientious observation of deadlines, excellent communication skills, and be familiar with working in an institutional setting.
DUTIES, WORK PERFORMED:
Examine, determine the physical condition of, and treat work in the Museum’s permanent collection and on loan.
Assess deterioration and damage, and potential complications involved in treatment.
Design and carry out conservation treatment of three-dimensional objects, mixed-media installations, and time-based media works of art in consultation with specialist Curators.
Provide written and photographic documentation to record condition of objects, treatments proposed, and treatments performed according to the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice.
Carry-out and/or facilitate study and analysis of works in the collection in support of curatorial, treatment, or research projects.
Identify, solicit, and contract specialized vendors to supplement the museum’s in-house equipment or analytical capabilities.
Recommend other Conservators outside his or her field of expertise to consult and/or contract on projects, as needed.
Advise on preventative maintenance in the Museum as a whole in the areas of environment, pest management, display, handling, packing, storage, and installation.
Work collaboratively with the Curator, Designer, Mountmaker and Preparators on the design of appropriate mounts for display or storage.
Examine artworks prior to acquisition to aid the Curatorial staff in determining their physical and aesthetic condition, as well as their authenticity.
Examine works requested for loan to determine suitability for travel and to document their condition and advise on any special packing and shipping considerations.
Act as a courier for works of art, particularly three-dimensional objects with condition or handling concerns.
Advise on the installation, storage, and maintenance of works in the collection.
Recommend and facilitate acquisition of new equipment.
Monitor stock and order conservation supplies for the Objects lab and specific projects.
SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES: None
The above statements of this job description describe the general duties and level of work performed by employees assigned to this position. They do not claim to describe all of the functions of this position. Employees may be assigned other duties and the essential functions may change or be changed from time to time.
Applicants should apply through the Museum’s website – http://www.slam.org. Additional questions regarding the position or the collection should be directed to the Head of Conservation – firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications submitted on or before September 25, 2020 will receive priority consideration.
The Museum is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We are committed to treating all applicants and employees fairly based on their abilities, achievements, and experience, without regard to sex, race, age, disability, religion, national origin, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other classification protected by law.
One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park St. Louis, Missouri 63110-1380
Regrettably, after extensive discussion, the board for MRCG has made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s physical annual conference, which was to be in Kansas City, hosted by the Nelson-Atkins Museum and KU Libraries. It was clear to the board that to continue to plan for a physical conference this year, on the off-chance that the crisis would be over by the fall, would not be responsible to either the members or the organization. While this was very disappointing to all of us, as the meeting was shaping up to be a great program, we still want to have a program of some kind to offer MRCG members. After discussion with the Chicago Area Conservation Group (CACG) Board, it was decided that both organizations would work together to offer two joint programming events for 2020. More information on this program will be forthcoming.
The MRCG board has also started the planning and discussion for the 2021 conference, which is to be held at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis. We are looking forward to a very exciting program. The board will also have two openings this fall, Vice President and Treasurer. For anyone interested in running for either of these positions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our president, Seth Irwin.
The two-year advanced training Fellowship in the conservation of photographs will begin on or after October 2020 and end August 2022. The Fellow will work under the supervisor of Fernanda Valverde, Conservator of Photographs, and participate in all departmental activities including examination, documentation, analysis, and treatment on the Amon Carter Museum’s extensive collection of photography, and will contribute significantly to the institution’s program of exhibitions. In addition, the Fellow will conduct research on the collection and is expected to present their findings at a professional conference and produce a formal paper before the end of the appointment based on research completed during the fellowship.
The Fellowship will provide excellent hands-on treatment experience and practice in conservation management for the museum’s collection. By participating in all the departmental activities, the Fellow will gain professional experience in the conservation of photographs while commencing a conservation career.
The Fellowship (full-time, hourly) provides a competitive salary and benefits package including a biweekly salary based on compensation of $41,000 annually, with an additional allowance for travel and research of $4,000, plus full-time benefits.
Deadline for applications: March 15, 2020
– Graduate of a recognized graduate-level program in conservation studies with a specialization in conservation of photography, or equivalent education and work/life experience. An electronic portfolio of treatments and research projects will be required of all applicants.
– The Applicant should have a demonstrated commitment to the profession of conservation and scholarly advancement, as well as possess strong public speaking and written communications skills.
For a full job description or to apply follow the link below https://www.paycomonline.net/v4/ats/web.php/jobs/ViewJobDetails?job=73938&clientkey=7DE652AD2B0C5EC19EBC3E25055F3A94