A delicate and dazzling example of Wladyslaw Theodor Benda's portraiture with an exotic stylized Benda Girl.
A mixed media work, on a verso addressed illustration board with a demure and soft focused masterfully conceived mysterious ingénue. This was presumably done as cover art and the back is dated 1928.
A brief compiled bio on the artist
Wladyslaw Theodor Benda studied art in his native Poland and Austria before emigrating to the United States at the very end of the 19th century. He was primarily a graphic artist, illustrating books, short stories, advertising copy, and magazine covers for Collier's, McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, etc.
McClure's magazine regarded Benda as their "war-horse" artist for his dependability and artistic abilities. In his time he was as well known as Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, or Maxfield Parrish. In the 20s and 30s the 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. They were darker, more mysterious, more foreign.
This work looks very much like covers done for Hearst's International or The Shrine Magazine.
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.