Above is a fine example of Benda's mask work. This
one is titled Golden Beauty. See also Toledo Polonian artist
[Adam Grant]

Great Polish Artists

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Polish American Museum

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Wladyslaw Theodor Benda (1873 - 1948)
One of America's Greatest from the Golden Age of Illustration


Slide Show Representative of Benda's Work

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The unprecedented success of the "Gibson Girl" in the 1890s unleashed a visual barrage of American beauties, which lasted throughout the Golden Age of American Illustration and continues to this very day. The different types of women presented over the years shows not only an evolving ideal of beauty, but also a concentrated effort on the part of publishers, advertisers, and the artists themselves to develop an easily identifiable, aesthetically pleasing product.

Born in Poznan, W. T. Benda, the nephew of Helena Modjeska, made a name for himself in the visual arts after he came to America to join Mme. Modjeska and continue his art studies. He created "the Benda Girl," a Slavic beauty whose exotic appeal supplanted the Gibson Girl of the previous generation. He was a prolific artist who joined the romantic tradition of Polish 19th century painting with his own sensual appeal, Benda created works of unparalleled beauty and mystery among artists of his period. His output also embraced the art of mask making, which he raised to an art form becoming a world-recognized authority on this subject. The sculpted face masks and costume's of his designs were used in plays and dances.

In the early part of the twentieth century marketers increasingly turned to the allure of the American female because women were thought to control 80 percent or more of the consumer dollars expended in the United States. Accordingly, advertisers turned to images of feminine mystique to which consumers could aspire (and hopefully emulate) through the purchase of goods and services. Men were also charmed by these images too and magazine publishers used the attraction of pretty faces on their covers to boost impulse buying for their all-important newsstand sales.

Competition to capture the look of "The American Girl" was fierce, but Benda's beautiful women were exotic, not apple-pie pretty like Fishers', Phillips', or Christy's girls. This Polish artist's brush created darker, more mysterious, more foreign looking figures. Benda illustrated short stories, illustrated advertising, and created covers, for Collier's, McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping.


 

 

Wladyslaw Teodor Benda (b. January 15, 1873 in Poznan, Poland - d. November 30, 1948 in Newark, New Jersey) was a Polish-American painter, illustrator, and designer. Benda was educated in Kraków and Vienna. He emigrated to the United States in 1899 and became a U.S. citizen in 1911.

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