Władysław Teodor Benda (1873–1948), painter, scenographist, and illustrator, was born in Poznań and died in New York. Many of Benda’s works were destroyed in a fire in the Polish library and museum of the Polish National Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, in 1931. However, nearly 100 posters and over 10 of Benda’s pastels, gouaches, watercolors and drawings are preserved in the PMA. They present a variety of themes: nature, portraits of women, and historical subjects (the most numerous of his works). Posters relating to World War I constitute a large collection. Two masks by Benda of the face of Helena Modrzejewska (Modjeska), a relative of the artist, are also in the collection. The PMA is attempting to gather material from his period as a successful commercial artist in the 1920’s–1940’s.
Art of Władysław Benda
Initially, the Museum of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America was focused chiefly on the gathering of historical materials, but changed its profile in 1941when it came into possession of exhibits from the Polish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair of 1939–1940. Paintings, graphics, sculptures, and objects of artistic craftsmanship were a significant component of this exposition. Their arrival began the collection of art, which expanded systematically by way of purchases and donations. At present, they may be separated into several large groups: the above-mentioned exhibits from the New York World’s Fair of 1939–1940; the paintings and graphics of the People’s Republic of Poland; Polish posters of the 20th century; and the art of individuals whose work consists of 20 or more creations each: Władysław T. Benda, Marian Kratochwil, Stefan Mrożewski, Michał Rekucki, and Maria Werten.