Some Ukrainian print and online publications, including the Ukrainian-language version of Wikipedia, claim that Ukrainian artist Robert Lisovsky designed Lufthansa’s logo. Who was Robert Lisovsky? The future artist was born in Kamenski (now Dnipropetrovsk) in 1893. He initially studied fine arts in Mirgorod and later in Kiev. In 1917, he entered the newly created Ukrainian Academy of Arts, where he studied under Mikhail Boychuk and Georgy Narbut. After 1922, the artist is forced to go into exile: in western Ukraine (which was part of Poland at the time), Germany, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, and Switzerland.
He graduated from the Berlin Academy of Arts at the end of the 1920s. According to some researchers, it was during those years that Lisovsky won the competition to design a logo for the Lufthansa airline. Between 1929 and 1945, he was a professor of graphic arts at the Ukrainian Studio of Plastic Arts in Prague. By the way, Lisovsky is the author of the logo of Plast, the Ukrainian scout organization.
Lufthansa does not deny or confirm
CFTS journalists asked Lufthansa’s head office to deny or confirm the finding by the Ukrainian researchers. Martin Riecken, Lufthansa's director of corporate communications for Europe, said that Lufthansa’s logo has been adapted and redesigned several times during the course of its history. "It is quite possible that Mr. Lisovsky was involved in this process, but Otto Firle is considered the creator of the logo," he said.
The head of the archive department at the Lufthansa Group, Carola Kapitza, said that the company had no documents confirming the participation of Lisovsky in the creation or modification of the logo. We also asked whether a competition for redesign or improvement of the logo was held in the late 1920s. We were told that they had no information confirming such a competition. The only thing that is known is that the logo underwent significant changes in 1926, when the airline itself was created through the merger of two other German carriers.
The creation of a "crane"
The Deutsche Lufthansa airline was established in early 1926. This year is considered the founding date of the carrier, like the history of its logo, began a few years earlier. The airline company Deutsche Luft-Reederei (D.L.R.) was founded in December 1917. However, it began operating flights only two years later, after the First World War. D.L.R. merged with Lloyd Luftdienst in 1923 to create a new airline called Deutschen Aero Lloyd. In turn, this airline merged with Junkers Luftverkehr under pressure from the state to create the Lufthansa that we all know. The company was liquidated after World War II, and it was revived again only in 1953.
As for the Lufthansa logo, its history began in 1918, when German architect and designer Otto Firle designed the logo for the D.L.R. airline. It was a flying crane enclosed in a circle.
A design that combined Deutschen Aero Lloyd’s "crane" and Junkers Luftverkehr’s yellow-and-blue color won the competition in 1926. The author of the logo design that came second is unknown
The logo underwent significant changes during the merger of Deutschen Aero Lloyd and Junkers Luftverkehr in 1926. A competition was announced for creation of the logo of the new airline. A design that combined Deutschen Aero Lloyd’s "crane" and Junkers Luftverkehr’s yellow-and-blue color won the competition. The author of the logo design that came second is unknown. We were informed at Lufthansa that Otto Firle himself headed the airline’s advertising and marketing department at the time. In that case, how could a Ukrainian have been involved in the creation of the logo?
What is the source of the Ukrainian version?
Reporters from CFTS also consulted Roman Yatsiv, an art historian and the vice rector of the Lviv Academy of Arts. He studied the biography of Robert Lisovsky in detail. A small booklet edited by him was published in 1993. It was entitled " Lisovsky Robert (1893-1982): A Catalogue of Exhibitions of Creations Marking the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of the Artist." Yatsiv is currently working on a large monograph devoted to Robert Lisovsky.
According to Yatsiv, Robert Lisovsky won a competition to create a new version of the airline’s logo between the end of 1928 and the beginning of 1929 (most probably in 1926 - CFTS). The artist did not create a new, original logo. Instead, he based his design on Otto Firle’s "crane." Lisovsky did not have German citizenship but, according to Yatsiv, the artist received monetary compensation for his work. This information was provide to him by the artist’s daughter Zoya Lisovskaya, who currently lives in Geneva. In turn, Lisovskaya obtained this information from her father.
Yatsiv said that one of his graduate students also contacted the Lufthansa airline. However, according to him, the airline did not provide any supporting information.
When we asked what should be done in this situation, Yatsiv replied, "My position as a researcher is this: the evidence of the artist and his family cannot be ignored. I insist that he made a new version of the logo, graphically improving it. However, finding the truth is quite problematic because the airline cannot provide documents confirming this. That is why we stand by our opinion and they stand by theirs."
The following could be an indirect confirmation of the participation of Lisovsky in modification of the Lufthansa logo. The artist moved from Germany to Czechoslovakia in 1929. There he repeatedly filled orders for various government agencies. To receive such orders, the artist must have had a solid portfolio of work. Perhaps, participation in improving the Lufthansa logo was one of them and this work recommended him to the government of Czechoslovakia? In any case, this is a subject for future research. Irrefutable evidence of the involvement of the Ukrainian graphic artist in the creation of the world-famous logo may still be gathering dust in German archives.