Museum logo
Museum logo

Object Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Catalog Number 13289-5
Title Portrait Mask, W.C. Fields; Made by Doane Powell
Object Name Mask, Portrait
Description Full head mask depicting comedian W.C. Fields with a bulbous red nose. Pupils of eyes and nostrils cut out. The mask does not have ears, but may have at one time.
Year Range from 1930
Year Range to 1950
Artist Powell, Doane
Height (in) 6
Length (in) 10
Width (in) 6.5
People Powell, Doane
Hunt, Kari
Fields, W.C.
History Doane Powell, an Omaha-born cartoonist, illustrator, and artist, graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in art in 1904. He later studied in Paris art academies and was an instructor at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Powell, although primarily an illustrator, during his later career made masks of many notables, including Mae West, Gen. Hugh Johnson, Huey Long, and Greta Garbo.

While in Nebraska he was active in the art world. In 1911 he organized the Omaha Art Guild and served as its first president. His political cartoons appeared sporadically in the Omaha Bee between 1910 and the early 1920s.

Powell was already cartooning during his student days at NU. He was identified in the 1904 Sombrero, the school yearbook, as staff artist for the annual. Two of his early cartoons date from 1902 and were published in the Omaha World-Herald (on microfilm at the Nebraska State Historical Society). The first (from the issue of July 6, 1902) is a collage of drawings depicting comic twists on current events of the week. The second series of drawings ran a week later on July 13, 1902, and illustrated an article entitled "How Business Men Enjoy a Picnic-Outings That make Some People Glad, Others Not."

Powell's later cartoons for the Omaha Bee were political, often run on the front page. One, entitled "Real Protection," published September 30, 1919, expressed Omaha's gratitude for federal military assistance during the 1919 riot in which a mob hanged accused rapist Will Brown and burned the Douglas County Court House.

Powell relocated to New York City in the 1920s where his mask making career flourished. His masks, of famous figures, were used in theater productions, social events, movies and television as well as advertising campaigns. In 1948 Powell wrote the book, "Masks and How to Make Them." In this book he wrote about his process and materials. Powell wrote that his masks were laminated paper and not paper-mache. He recommended using an unbleached wood pulp paper like Kraft paper. He would use three layers of paper with adhesive between them. He would also use "silk" in some areas of the mask, and suggested using bits from old slips, underwear, or nightgowns. Nylon, celanese and rayon could also be used. The masks would have a coat of lacquer and he suggested using oil paint instead of tempera. Some of the hair was made of crepe and he stated that it was softer than paper and could be purchased from a wig maker or costumer. Powell suggested cleaning the masks with a raw potato.

Powell had a mask-making apprentice, Kari Hunt, whom he met in the late 1940s. She inherited Powell's masks after his death in New York City in 1951. The masks continued to be used by Hunt, and were used in the television show Masquerade Party which ran from 1952-1960.

According to Powell's 1948 book, the masks were shown or used in/at the following:
National Press Club
Gridiron Banquet in D.C.
Salmagundi & Lotus club
Cornell Club Reunion
Advertising Club of N.Y.
Time-Life party
Woodstock Playhouse
Tuxedo Masonic Camp
Ohio Club
New York Medico Surgical Society
Poor Richard Club
Philadelphia Art Directors Club
Finch College
Art School League of New York
Harvard's Hasty Pudding Show
The Lambs Spring Gambol
Ringling Bros. Circus
Society of Illustrators show (six times as of 1948)
Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe (three years as of 1948)

Movie shorts and newsreels: Paramount Pictorial, Fox, Pathe, MGM, Warner Bros., Universal and Columbia Pictures

National Broadcasting

Window displays, fashion, and store displays at Wanamaker, Macy's, Best & Co. in New York, T. Eaton Co. in Toronto, Marshall Field in Chicago and stores in Detroit, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and many other cities.

Magazine and newspaper features and illustrated articles in Harpers Bazaar, Parade, Pic and Pictures Wise, World Telegram, N.Y., NEA Sunday Supplement, Cosmopolitan, Look, New York Times, Journal-American, Mirror, Coronet, Popular Science, Chicago Tribune, Gravure, the London Sketch and Illustrated London.

Credit line Karen L. Schnitzspahn, Little Silver, NJ
Collection Doane Powell
Relation Show Related Records...