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 Wladyslaw Theodor Benda  (1873 - 1948)

About: Wladyslaw Theodor Benda
 

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey / Poland      Known for: illustrations-figure, portrait, mural paintings, theatrical masks

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BIOGRAPHY for Wladyslaw Benda
Facts/Data
Birth
1873 (Poznan, Poland)
 
Death
1948 (Newark, New Jersey)

Lived/Active
New York/New Jersey / Poland

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illustrations-figure, portrait, mural paintings, theatrical masks

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San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Illustrators
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Wladslaw Theodor Benda is an illustrator remembered today primarily for his beautiful theatrical masks. These creations occupied the latter part of his career and were used in theatre and dance performances around the world. Altogether, Benda was a painter, muralist, lithographer, set designer, mask maker, woodcarver, author and playwright. Benda illustrated during the "Golden Era" of American Illustration, which ran from approximately 1880-1940.

Benda himself had an international background. He was born in Poznan, Poland, and drew from his earliest years. After a false start in civil engineering at the Krakow college of Technology, he switched to the Academy of Fine Arts. In the 1890s he was accepted into Vienna's prestigious School of Fine Arts. In 1898 young Benda moved with his family to America where he attended the Art Students League in New York and the William Merritt Chase School where he studied under Robert Henri and Edward Penfield.

Benda joined the Society of Illustrators in 1907, the Architectural league in 1916, and became a naturalized American in 1911. Benda was proud of his Polish heritage and contributed several poster designs for recruiting Polish patriots during World War I. It was the era of the pretty girl, and his "Benda Girl" work joined the rest, but she stood out as intriguingly exotic among the American types. Her success kept Benda busy working for magazines for many years.

Around 1914 Benda turned to more sculptural pursuits. He began making beautiful and realistic theater masks. He was often referred to as the premier mask maker of the early 20th Century. Four years before his death, he produced a handsome, profusely illustrated book, Masks (Watson-Guptill, 1944).

As his career drew to a close, he did less illustration and spent more time on his masks. Benda died on November 30, 1948, at the age of 75. He had suffered a massive heart attack while waiting to give a demonstration of his masks in the auditorium of the Newark Public School of Fine and Industrial Art.

Source: Illustration Magazine, Winter 2005

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