Laguna Art Museum Presents: Titi, Nunu, and Klembolo: Helena Modjeska’s Fairy Tale Book

The great Polish actress Helena Modjeska (1840–1909), best known for performances in the plays of Shakespeare, was a star of the American stage in the 1880s and 90s. In 1888 she and her husband built a country home, Arden, in what is now Modjeska Canyon in Orange County. Among her many other talents, Modjeska was a storyteller and artist. During breaks in her acting schedule she spent time at Arden writing and illustrating a fairy tale for her grandson, Felix Modjeski, presenting a 147-page bound manuscript to him as a Christmas gift in 1896. With handwritten parallel texts in English and Polish, and ink-and-watercolor illustrations that show Modjeska’s flair for both fantasy and natural observation, it tells the story of a pair of brothers, Titi and Nunu, who live on Mars. They run away from home, accompanied by their six-legged blue dog, Klembolo, but after some adventures return to their family and friends for Christmas. The original manuscript of Modjeska’s fairy tale was recently acquired by the University of California, Irvine Libraries as a gift from the Museum of the City of New York. It was in need of conservation, and the UCI Libraries Special Collections & Archives department called upon the UCLA Library Conservation Center to undertake treatment, also digitizing the manuscript to provide future online access for students, researchers, and the public. The exhibition at Laguna Art Museum will take place immediately after the conservation treatment and before the separate sheets of the manuscript are re-bound, allowing Modjeska’s amazing flight of the imagination to be displayed as never before.