"I first wrote to the Heartfield Archiv in April, 1988. In Berlin, one Elizabeth Patzwall was extremely clear and forceful about refusing to let me see anything. When I returned home, a letter of refusal was waiting--dated June 6!--implying I had "not applied in time," (that is absolutely absurd!). Two years later, I [...applied again...] and the same things started to happen again. I wrote. There was no answer. I tried to call, which was completely hopeless. I wrote again. The answer was still NO. One is led to suppose that getting in or not getting in depended on personalities rather than policies. Of course, I was disappointed, frustrated, and angry."
Heartfield's third wife, Gertrud, must remain in East Berlin until her death in 1983.
Two days after Heartfield’s death, a “Marriage Certificate” is issued by East Germany (GDR) documenting Heartfield’s name change (1964) and the marriage of John and Gertrud (1952).
In 1969, one year after Heartfield's death, Gertrud signs a declaration that transfers all of John Heartfield's original art and ephemera to the John Heartfield Archive (John Heartfield Archiv), a division of the East German Akademie Der Künste. The archive is tasked with conserving, organizing, cataloging, and exhibiting John Heartfield's art and possesions in order to preserve his legacy. In addition, it's an accepted responsibility of any artist's archive to allow access to art scholars so they may study the material necessary for the publication of books, articles, essays, and theses.
Gertrud writes to Heartfield’s son, Tom G. Heartfield, in New York. She asks him to help her with the archive. She also asks Tom to return his father's original art to East Berlin from storage in Queens, New York.
In 1957, Heartfield’s art was retrieved from his 1931 Moscow Exhibition. When all of Heartfield’s art and personal possessions were transferred to the Heartfield Archiv (Heartfield Archive), they become, as they always were, property of the state.
The John Heartfield Collection includes original maquettes that Heartfield meticulously put together using many types of media. The maquettes display Heartfield’s mastery in this form. They also show his precise instructions to the rotogravure masters who made mass distribution of his work possible.
There are also sketches and models of John Heartfield's stage designs for Bertolt Brecht and many other important playwrights.
Almost all of John Heartfield's art and his artistic legacy is stored in a schoolhouse-like structure on a back street in what was East Berlin.
In short, Berlin’s John Heartfield Archiv (John Heartfield Archive) is a treasure trove of material related to one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.
The curator believes this Chronology should focus on the life and work of John Heartfield.
However, the curator also believes there are factors that have directly impacted John Heartfield’s reputation and renown that cannot be dismissed. Documents and letters will show that the policies and actions of the John Heartfield Archiv (Heartfield Archive) have often been at odds with the recognized policies of any major artist's archive. The curator believes these policies, driven more by financial necessity and political circumstances rather than objective, have directly contributed to a question that is heard much too often. Who is John Heartfield?
Please refer to the ever-growing section of this exhibition entitled “The Hidden Genius” on the Exhibition’s Welcome Page for a fascinating history of the Heartfield Archiv (Heartfield Archive) and the Akademie Der Künste.