John Heartfield’s life story was cinematic in scope. In 1889, the eight-year-old John Heartfield, his brother, and his sisters were abandoned in the woods by his mentally disturbed parents. Soon afterwards, he chose the life of a struggling artist. Introduced to Dada art by George Grosz, Heartfield became an influential member of the German Dada movement of the early 20th century.
Known as a founder of modern visual design montage, Heartfield has influenced generations of artists. This influence can be seen in mediums as diverse as films and digital graphic design.
As a young man in Berlin, John Heartfield was hailed as one of the brightest stars in commercial graphic design. He was an innovator in typography. He is credited with the invention of the wraparound 3-D book dust jacket. The front of the book combined with the back to tell one cohesive story.
Many customers bought Malik-Verlag book dust covers to enjoy Heartfield’s designs, rather than the content of the book.
Incensed by the insanity of Hitler and The Nazi Party, John Heartfield became world famous on both sides of the Atlantic for his searing artistic indictments of fascism and war known as his “Photomontages of the Nazi Period.” His complex and searing indictments of Adolf Hitler, The Third Reich, and fascism made him number five on the Gestapo’s Most Wanted List. He continue to create his “art as a weapon” as he was hunted throughout Europe.
Throughout his life, he designed complex brilliant stage sets, costumes, and projections for playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht, a lifelong friend and collaborator.
The John Heartfield Exhibition celebrates the artist’s life, his achievements, and seeks to show why Douglas Kahn wrote in the catalog that accompanied John Heartfield’s hugely successful 1993 MOMA exhibition in New York, “the neglect is almost as famous as he is.”