<< HEARTFIELD CHRONOLOGY - ALL YEARS1949 1950 1951 1952 1954 1956

“[…] I would not hesitate to take
a position in graphic art at the Art Academy
in Dresden, but I would prefer
such a position in Leipzig,
should there be a possibility.
Due to bad health, I do no wish
to think of Berlin […]” 
Anti-Fascist Collage Artist John Heartfield, 1949
Anti-Fascist Collage Artist John Heartfield, 1949

East Berlin Injustice. Anti-Fascist Artist Activist John Heartfield Behind The Iron Curtain, 1949

In 1949, there are intensive efforts to have John Heartfield return to Berlin. It is a return that will lead the anti-fascist artist directly into years of East Berlin injustice of a stunning magnitude.

Heartfield’s lifelong friend, Bertolt Brecht, argues for the “new arts” – posters and photomontage. However, there’s no room for political views that do not conform directly to those of the East German Government. And Heartfield has never been a conformist. When speaking of his participation in the SPD early in life, he says, “I was never a functionary.”

Wieland Herzfeld has returned to Leipzig from the United States. He is doing well in East Berlin. He has a comfortable academic position. It can be easily argued that without Wieland, the world would have never experienced the genius of John Heartfield. But that road goes two ways. Although Wieland is an accomplished writer, most of his work relates directly to the art and life of his brother. Wieland is not the same man without John Heartfield’s talent. In 1949, he writes the following letter to his brother.

“Dearest John,

[…] I’ve been worried that you’re not as well as you should be. Hopefully, your traveling plans [return to the Soviet Occupied Zone] will be realized all the same. Try to make it in the spring. […]

Your works at the exhibition [Second German Art Exhibition in Dresden, September 10-31, 1949] are well insured. I’m sure that everything will be returned to me intact. I was at the opening. Your works and Böff’s [George Grosz’s] made a very strong impact. There has also been a turn in the evaluation of Böff. I haven’t heard of any attacks in the Voice of Germany [Deutschlands Stimme]; there was only one in Neues Deutschland [central organ of the Socialist Unity Party in the GDR]. Is it possible that you made a mistake? […]
Greetings to both of you from the two of us.”

  Your Wieland (Wieland Herzfelde, John Heartfield’s Brother)

Following the founding of German Democratic Republic (East Germany) on October 7th 1949, Wieland Herzfelde arranges for Johnny to participate in the II. Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Second German Art Exhibition) in Dresden.

Professor John J Heartfield is John Heartfield’s paternal grandson. He gives live interactive presentations around the world that focus on his grandfather’s life and work and modern political art. Please write to him to request his presence at your event or ask any question. He is always pleased to hear from exhibition visitors.

East Berlin injustice documented by John Heartfield grandson, John Heartfield, Curator Official John Heartfield Exhibition