Heartfield, John

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HEARTFIELD, JOHN (1891–1968), German photographer, graphic artist, and caricaturist; pioneer of artistic photomontage and collage. Born in Berlin as Helmut Herzfeld, he enrolled at the Munich Arts and Crafts School in 1908 and at the Berlin Arts and Crafts School to continue his studies in 1913. In 1916, as a protest against German hostilities against England he changed his name to John Heartfield. At the end of World War i, in 1918, he joined the German Communist party (kpd) together with his friend George Grosz. In 1917 they founded the satirical journal Die Pleite ("The Crash") together with John's brother Wieland, for which he created his first political and satirical posters directed against Fascism by using the technique of photomontage. In 1929, at the International Werkbund exhibition in Stuttgart, he showed several of his collages and photomontages in journals and as book covers under the heading Benuetze Foto als Waffe ("Make Use of Photography as a Weapon"). He also illustrated Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles, a satirical book written by Kurt Tucholsky. As a member of the Communist Party and on the staff of the Arbeiter-Illustrierten-Zeitung, a weekly newspaper for working people, he published satirical attacks and was already a thorn in the side of the Nazis and had to flee after their rise to power in 1933. He was able to continue his activities first from Prague and later from Paris, where he met Walter *Benjamin in 1935. In 1938, he settled in London and received permission to work as a freelance cartoonist in 1943. After the war, he returned to East Berlin, became a much-honored professor there at the Academy of Fine Arts, and had many exhibitions in Communist Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow, and Prague. Most of Heartfield's montages foreshadow the catastrophe of World War ii, such as the cover of a journal under the title Italy in Chains (1928). Among his most famous posters was the one called As in the Middle Ages… So in the Third Reich (1934), featuring a dead body braided onto the swastika.


P. Pachnicke and K. Honnef: John Heartfield (1992).

[Philipp Zschommler (2nd ed.)]