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Queen of a modern publicity
Costumes and dresses
Teaching of the Art of Women's Tailoring
RECONSTRUCTIONS: Description of Dresses and Patterns
Crinoline for the role of Barbara Radziwiłł (1865)
Crinoline with velvet ribbons (1865)
Crinoline in stripes (1868)
Crinoline with meanders (1869)
Riding Habit (1870)
Bustle ball gown - one (1871)
Bustle ball gown - two (1871)
Mary Stuart (1872)
Princess style with flowers (1878)
Julia (1878)
Cleopatra (1880)
Princess style with fur (1880)
Princess style black and white (1882)
Bustle gown with tassels (1884)
White bustle (1885)
Bustle with saber (1886)
Beaded ball dress (1891)
Art nouveau with buttons (1898)
Swimsuit (1900)
Classic art nouveau (1903)
Helena Modjeska – biography
Helena Modjeska – Polish-American actress of the second half of 19th century who specialized in difficult and dramatic theatrical roles. She valued most plays by William Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller. Her flagship roles were those of title characters in plays: Adriana Lecouvreur by Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé and Maria Stuart by Schiller.
She played all Shakespearean heroines: Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Ophelia in Hamlet, Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, Rosalind in As You Like It, Viola in Twelfth Night, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and also Margarete in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Camille in The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils, Luise in Intrigue and Love by Schiller.
Born as Helena Benda to a burgher family in Cracow in 1840 she acquired her acting credentials working in amateur theater troupe lead by Gustawa Zimajer - her first life partner. He had based the troupe’s repertoire on Helena being a lead actress and invented her stage name: Modrzejewska. Young actress would weave ambitious dramas into a light repertoire of a provincial theatre.
In 1865 she moved to Cracow where her acting career started for good. Modjeska very meticulously prepared every role. She thought that every element of play is equally important therefore she was designing and making stage costumes with utmost reverence. Studying in library collections she copied historical dresses and while designing she did not forget about most fashionable cuts so as to delight eyes of demanding audience.
She captured men’s attention. She acted so that to always look beautiful. She mixed realism with highest artistry. She moved heart at the same time feeding eyes with most spectacular body poses, dressed in beautiful costumes. One of her adorers was Poznan aristocrat Karol Chłapowski whom she married in 1868. In the same year she moved to the capital city.
Her move to Warsaw was preceded by American-style publicity campaign. She quickly became a star and was getting most favourable reviews. Modjeska became not only mother of Polish theatre but also of Polish art. She hosted artistic salon where she promoted figures such as Józef Chełmoński, Stanisław Witkiewicz or Henryk Sienkiewicz.
In 1876 she left together with her family and friends to the United States to step on stage in America. She debuted at the California Theatre in San Francisco. Two years later she successfully performed in England and Ireland. Later she returned to America and settled for good in southern California. For 35 years she was touring the United States, performing many times in dozens of cities and towns. She was the most popular American actress of the second half of 19th century.
Modjeska became a symbol of modern woman. By her life journey she become one of emancipationists thanks to whom the modern society was created. She promoted many artists, among others she funded Ignacy Paderewski’s musical studies in Vienna. After years as a diplomat he would play an undisputed part in Poland regaining her independence.
Modjeska acted almost until the end of her life. She died in 1909 in Newport Beach on Pacific coast. To this day she remains an important figure in southern California. Numerous sites in Orange County are named after her Many poets left poems in her honor. Henryk Sienkiewicz called her „A dove with the wings of eagle”, she herself spoke about her exceptional enthusiasm for work and activity: “Hundredfold better to suffer and live than to sleep! From Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ I say: To be, to be, to be! To gather all powers of the soul and continuously go forward – and always higher!.”
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