John Heartfield's Art: A Persepective

Shortly after being introduced to the comparative artistic anarchy of Dada by George Grosz, John Heartfield burned all his early oil paintings (mostly landscapes) except one. That painting survives in the John J Heartfield Collection.

Heartfield's Dada work, a cacophony of visual elements, evolved into his lifelong effort to have the mixed media of his art convey a clear message to his audience.

In many circles, Heartfield is simply described as a “communist artist” or “anti-Nazi artist” due to his youthful affiliation with German Communist Party (KPD). It must be noted that the KPD was arguably the greatest political threat to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party. The KPD represented the idealistic communism of mostly young Germans who stood against The Nazi Party. The reality of communist governments soon became the nightmarish reality of their dreams of world peace and human equality.

The idealist John Heartfield had joined the German Communist Party (KPD) in his youth. He could not have foreseen, that in 1950s, the communist East Germany (GDR) would seek to try him for treason after he was forced to return to East Berlin after World War Two.

Going beyond his personal beliefs, Heartfield’s artistic legacy is extraordinarily complex. He is recognized as an brilliant innovator in typography, book jacket presentation, and mixed media.

There is no question he is most famous for his photomontages of the Nazi Period, stunning mixed media artworks that mocked and attacked Adolf Hitler, The Third Reich, ignorance, war, and the threat of worldwide fascism. (Please click “ABOUT THIS PIECE” under montages for historical perspective and commentary).

However, Heartfield must also be recognized for his groundbreaking 3-D graphic designs for books (Upton Sinclair, Kurt Tucholsky), as well his historic theater collaborations with playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht and Erwin Piscator.

Heartfield artistic output was as prolific as it was innovative. The art currently available in "HIS ART" is but a small collection of John Heartfield's extensive artistic legacy.

Please continue to visit the Exhibition often as many more montages, stage sets, graphic designs for the theatre, sketches, and more will constantly be added.

Summary Of  The Current Sections Of HIS ART

The options below are also available under HIS ART.

New sections and media are constantly added to the Exhibition

An expanding exhibition of Heartfield’s montages for magazines such as the AIZ, Der Knüppel, and Die Rote Fahne.

A growing exhibition of Heartfield pioneering graphic designs for books by authors such as Upton Sinclair and Kurt Tucholsky.

An expanding exhibition of the type of posters that were plastered throughout the streets of Berlin. These posters made Heartfield, a Berlin resident, a target for assassination by the Nazis.

A growing exhibition of Heartfield’s art that graced the covers of propaganda posters against fascist dictators.

An expanding exhibition of Heartfield’s stage sets, production designs, projections, costume designs, and mechanics for the theater.

We did so to make it clear that Heartfield’s montages did not—like a well-told joke – simply combine picture and text in a provoking manner. For him, montage was more a symbolic form in which, apart from photos and texts, tonal values, the colors and structure of the material, the precisely calculated organization of the visual plane, and the imaginary visual space devised by means of retouching produced many levels of meaning. Heartfield is not being aestheticized. Instead, the diversity and ambivalence of his montages become obvious. Thus his works extend beyond political current events, allowing the viewer to develop his thoughts, imagination, and sensual perceptiveness. The fact that the current political trend has not faded is assured by reality itself, which tries even nowadays to live up to the satirical montages in a violent and impertinent manner.
An Essay 'On The Subject' by Peter Pachnicke and Kalus Honnef in John Heartfield (ABRAMS)
An Essay 'On The Subject' by Peter Pachnicke and Kalus Honnef in John Heartfield (ABRAMS)

The Exhibition is always expanding.

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