Wladyslaw Teodor Benda (1873-1948)

Benda was the son of musician Jan Szymon Benda and a nephew of the actress Helena Modrzejewska (known as Helena Modjeska in the United States). From 1892 to 1894 he studied at the Krakow School of Fine Arts under Wladyslaw Luszczkiewicz, Florian Cynk, and Izydor Jablonski. He continued his studies in Vienna, San Francisco, and New York. In 1899 he settled permanently in the United States, first in Los Angeles, where he opened a school of painting, and then, around 1911, in New York City.

Benda began his career as a set and costume designer, thanks to the support of Helena Modrzejewska. He designed her production of Shakespeare`s Antony and Cleopatra in Los Angeles. In New York he was known for his portraits of women. Unfortunately, many of his paintings were lost in a fire at Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, in January 1931.

Several of his works were executed expressly for the Kosciuszko Foundation (among them portraits of Queen Jadwiga of Poland and General Kosciuszko), and he acted, in effect, as its "artist-in-residence" from the time of the opening of the Foundation House until his death. His Krakowiak in this collection, initially brought him to the attention of Professor Mizwa do the Foundation, and thus began many years of friendship and collaboration.

The artist`s Reverend Skapka is in the Polish Museum of Chicago. He painted a gallery of Polish military figures under the collective title Polish Heroes of the Revolutionary War (completed ca. 1943).

Benda was a celebrated illustrator whose work appeared in popular magazines, such as Century, Scribners, and Cosmopolitan, as well as in books, such as H. W. Mabie`s Parables of Life (New York, 1905). His media included also murals and masks. He outlined his mask-making technique in Masks (New York, 1944), which enjoyed wide use as a textbook on the subject. Benda was a member of the Society of Illustrators, the Society of Mural Painters, and the Architectural League of America in New York.

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