Wladyslaw Benda
(Polish, 1873-1948)

W. T. Benda began his art pursuits at Poland’s Kraków College of Technology before attending the School of Fine Arts in Vienna. After visiting an aunt in California, Benda decided to stay in America, and moved to New York in 1902 to further his art. Among schools he attended in New York were the William Merritt Chase School and the Art Students League. He also studied with artist Robert Henri and American poster artist Edward Pensfield.

 

Having previously done some illustration in Europe, his work had already developed a style before he came to America. Benda joined the American Society of Illustrators in 1907. His earliest work in America was for Scribner’s, McClure’s, and St. Nicholas, where he did magazine illustrations. His work had what can be called an “exotic” look, due to the different influences that Benda had compared to American artists working at the same time. That subtle difference gave his work a unique quality, which many publishers found desirable. The graphic and decorative qualities of his pieces complemented the Art Deco styling of the twenties.

 

Masks were an interest of Benda’s and they became part of his work in the latter part of his career. Not only did they appear in his paintings, but also he created actual masks, which became sought after by the theatre world. Benda lectured on the topic of modern masks and was enough of an expert to write an article for Encyclopedia Britannica on the subject. In 1944, he wrote the book, Masks, for art publisher Watson-Guptill.

 

Menges, Jeff A. 101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925. Published by Dover Publications. Mineola, New York, 2016. p. 24.