In 2014 the Mississippi Museum of Art displayed the exhibition Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain. I was working in the Museum’s marketing department at the time and was tasked to create a logo for the exhibition.
When promoting an exhibition for an art Museum, the challenge is to spark interest without overshadowing or contradicting the art. This means selling not only the show, but also the idea of the show. In my own process, I always start with a history book. What was going on in the world in general, and the art world, when this art was being created? How does the artist fit into their time?
Robert Henri took his first trip to Spain in 1900 and produced Spanish-themed work from then until 1924. At that time, US culture was fascinated by Spain’s influence. Washington Irving, Walt Whitman, and soon after, Ernest Hemingway, were writing and romanticizing Spanish culture. After the American Civil War and before the turn of the century, artists had begun taking pilgrimages to Spain to study the art and culture; including Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, and William Merit Chase.
Henri was an accomplished American painter and educator at the turn of the 20th century. He was a founding member of the Aschan School of thought and instructor at the New York School of Art. Henri rejected emerging notions of impressionism in order to portray what he considered honest representations of the people he met and observed in Spain.
The exhibition, which was originally organized by the Telfair Museum, embodies people (portraiture), place (Spain), and the traveler (Henri).
Goudy Old Style typeface was developed in the first two decades of the twentieth century; the same time Henri was traveling and working in Spain. This very traditional serif may queue the viewer to this time. Gill Sans is included in the Museum brand and holds a similar roundness to Goudy. Here it relates back to Goudy in weight and shape while giving a throwback to MMA (the ever-present umbrella that all of this has to fit into).
What is perhaps the most daring part of the mark (and my favorite) is the Sojourner figure. He is also the piece that holds the most intention. At once, he stands to recall three important aspects of this show: art, travel, and people.
The gestural lines used to build the figure communicate that art has some place in this idea, even if you didn't know it was a museum exhibition. The inception of the figure came from Picasso's Don Quixote. While Picasso was not Henri's contemporary, I took creative liberty to borrow from a visual queue I knew people would likely be familiar with. Now, not only does this say "art" but it also recalls "Spanish."
The walking stick the figure holds, and its placement beside the word "Sojourns," refers to the idea that this isn't native art. Travel and foreign observation are important elements to this show.
Finally, the fact that this is a human figure points back to the portraiture of the show. Henri was the traveler, but most of his work from this show explores representations of people.
In Gallery Photo:
Robert Henri (1865-1929), Girl from Segovia, 1912. oil on canvas. 31 x 26 in. Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Gift of Mrs. C.H. Stern, 1963.
Robert Henri (1865-1929), The Green Fan (Girl of Toledo, Spain), 1912. oil on canvas. 41 x 33 in. Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina, 1914.002.0001.
Robert Henri (1865-1929), Dorita, 1924. Oil on canvas. 52 x 40 in. Robert Henri Estate, LeClair family collection.