“Heartfield’s work is a struggle, repeated day after day, to realize his ideas and aims.”
The League of Culture celebrates John Heartfield’s 50th birthday in 1941 with an exhibition of his Malik-Verlag book jackets and anti-fascist photomontages.
However, his lifelong work as a creator of groundbreaking collage, revolutionary graphic design, and theatre stage designer for luminaries such as Bertolt Brecht and Erwin Piscator has not provided him enough income to work only as an artist.
Below is the text of a letter written by John Heartfield in 1941. (The addition of a bold font is provided by the curator to highlight key thoughts expressed in this letter).
“Dear Friends, With reference to your notification regarding the [Czech Refugee] Trust Fund’s intention to carry out a general evacuation from London, I urge you to help me to stay in London. Although my state of health – and the difficulties it causes – has so far prevented me from finding paid employment, I still hope to be able to find work that I am physically capable of doing in the near future. However, I am convinced that I will only be able to do this in London and that such prospects only exist here. As you know, I published a number of my photomontages as free-lance work in London newspapers (Lilliput, Picture Post, Reynolds News) prior to my internment, but I was unable to find a paid position. The present lack of space in newspapers has now made this possibility even more difficult. Nevertheless, this does not mean that I will not be able to work for a newspaper again. […] I am now taking part in a training course that is organized by the Free German League of Culture, which helps people find work as an inspector in the metal industry. I also give lectures on art, for example on April 26, on “What Peasant Breugel [sic]. Has to Say to Us.” In addition, I am organizing an exhibition of my works on the occasion of my fiftieth birthday – in about two months – which will involve lectures about my “photomontage” working method. I am able to find the necessary material for my work only in London libraries, such as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Courtauld Institute. I am still being treated at the Maida Vale Hospital. I have been living in my present apartment for over two years now, and have been given all the care and attention that I need.
For all these reason, I ask you to refrain from evacuating me.”
Yours sincerely, John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld No. 393)