Sunday, January 03, 2010

 John Heartfield

Hurah! All the Butter is Gone! 

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Strongest of them all? The Crisis.

One of the most interesting practicioners of early photomontage, John Heartfield wielded political symbols to great effect. Born Helmut Herzfeld in Germany, he chose to call himself John Heartfield in 1916 to criticize the rabid nationalistic/anti-british sentiment in Germany in the period before the first world war. By the summer of 1916 the slogan "Gott Strafe England" (May God Punish England) was widely prevalent in German society and it's believed that the anglicizing of his name was partially a protest against this. Struggling to find a place in a society that was growing more and more xenophobic by the day, in 1918 Heartfield joined the Berlin Dada group and the German Communist party. After his protestations of concerning the murders of Rosa Luxemborg and Karl Liebknecht (cofounder of the Spartacus League, German socialist), he was summarily dismissed from UFA after which he worked with George Groz to found a satirical magazine (Die Pleite).

 Self Portrait with Police Commissioner Zorgiebel

Monuments to the Glory of Fascism

In 1924 Heartfield met Brecht who had a large influence on him. Shortly after this meeting Heartfield began to show his political photomontages in gallery shows and in German communist publications such as Die Rote Fahne and Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ). Unsafe in Germany after the rise of Hitler, in 1933 Heartfield fled to Czechoslovakia where he contined to exhibit. Eventually Heartfield made it to London where he continued to work. Ironically, as the second world war was heating up in 1940 Heartfield was held as an enemy in Britain because of his German ancestry.

  And Yet it Moves!
*A parody of Galileo who was forced to deny in public his belief that the Earth moved arund the sun. After his inquisition he was said to have stamped his foot and muttered to himself: "And yet it moves"

Adolf the Superman Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk

Blood and Iron

Heartfield was interred in camps at Lutton, Huyton, and York. In 1941 he was released. Eventually he took up a professorship of graphic arts and then was allowed to return to Germany after the war in 1948. Heartfield used photography as a weapon, recognizing that often empty and rediculious nature of political symbolic systems can be used as a structural weapon against them. By anchoring his photomontages with satirical captions and by juxtaposing Nazi imagery with more a more 'sane' visual programme, Heartfield creates a world with his photomontages of pure art and pure activism. Captions have been included where possible.

War and Corpses: the Last Hope of the Rich

Goering the Butcher

The Murders Crucifix
The Cross Wasnt Heavy Enough


The Executioner and Justice

Through the Light and Into the Night

A Pan Germanist; Like Brothers, Like Murderers

The Seeds of Death

This is the Peace

The Thousand Year Reich

Don't Worry, He's a Vegetarian

Whoever Reads Bourgeois Newspapers Becomes Blind and Deaf: Away with These Stultifying Bandages!

The Conquest of Machines

Forced to Deliver Human Material

Heil Hitler

Hitler's Dove of Peace

He Must Fall Before the War Fells You

The German Tree

The Teaching of Wolves

The Place in the Sun


The Brown Death Before the Gates

The Nazis playing with Fire

The Spirit of Geneva

Three Wise Men

After Three Years in the Grip!


Goebbel's Recipe Against Hunger

So in the Middle Ages, So in the Third Reich