Wlaydslaw Benda with arms folded, c.1900. Archives of American Art, aaa_charscrs_4213
Wladislaw Theodore Benda
Date: American illustrator, 1873–1948
Biography: Born in Poznan, Poland, Benda was educated in Krakow at the Krakow College of Technology and Art and Vienna before immigrating to the United States in 1898. He became a U.S. citizen in 1911, but continued to support his Polish heritage by designing several posters for recruiting Polish patriots during World War I.

He specialized in exotic fiction, and following the war, his illustrations appeared in Life, Vanity Fair, The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Scribner’s, Vogue, and Collier’s, where he provided the definitive imagery for Sax Rohmer’s serialized Fu Manchu stories. His striking color covers were frequently dominated by languid women, and became so well known that the “Benda Girl” was immediately recognizable. Benda was also a renowned mask-maker, with his masks appearing in theatre and dance performances internationally and used as promotions for Hollywood movies. His book Masks was published in 1944 and they became in increasingly important aspect of his art making. Benda also illustrated numerous books throughout his career.