Gertrud writes to John Heartfield’s son, Tom George. 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.
Two days after Heartfield’s death, East Germany (GDR) issued a “Marriage Certificate” documenting Heartfield’s name change (1964) and the marriage of John and Gertrud Heartfield (1952).
In 1969, one year after Heartfield’s death, Gertrud signs an agreement that transfers all of John Heartfield’s original art and ephemera (material related to the art) to the Heartfield Archiv, East German Akademie der Künste [AdK] (The Heartfield Archive, East Germany Academy Of Art). In this agreement, the archive agrees to conserve, organize, catalogue, and exhibit John Heartfield’s art and ephemera to preserve his legacy. A responsibility of any competent archive to allow access to scholars so they may study material necessary to publish books, articles, essays, and theses.
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 became property of the state.
The Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste, holds approximately 64 original pieces of John Heartfield’s photomontages (maquettes). These are the famous works of art containing elements that Heartfield brilliantly put together using many types of media. His maquettes (original pieces) display Heartfield’s mastery of collage technique. They show his precise instructions to the rotogravure masters who made mass distribution of Heartfield’s art possible.
The Heartfield Archiv also contains sketches and models of John Heartfield’s stage designs for Bertolt Brecht and many other important playwrights. In addition, there are historic photos and documents.
Berlin’s Heartfield Archiv (John Heartfield Archive) is a treasure trove of art and materials connected to one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.
The curator believes there are factors that have directly impacted John Heartfield’s reputation and renown. Documents and letters 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 are driven by financial necessity and political circumstances. These policies raise a question asked much too often. Who is John Heartfield? Why is the greatest political artist and graphic designer of the twentieth century unknown to so many?
In 2016, John Heartfield grandson, John J Heartfield, the curator of The Official John Heartfield Exhibition curator traveled to Berlin for the second time. The Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste, invited him for a face-to-face meeting with the new director, Werner Heegewalt, to discuss the exhibition curator’s “issues.” However, the new director spent very little time with the exhibition’s curator. The curator was impressed by the outstanding work done by Michael Kresja in the documents section of the archive. However, little progress was made in cooperation between the online exhibition and The Heartfield Archiv. Since that meeting, some important scholars have written to the curator to inform him they will no longer be using the services of The Heartfield Archiv, AdK. The curator is preparing a letter of cooperation for Werner Heegevalt. There is always hope that policies can change and the artist who risked his life to oppose fascism, a pursuit that grows in importance every day, will receive greater worldwide attention .
Please refer to the expanding section of this exhibition entitled Hidden Genius for the curator’s continuing commentary on the policies of The Heartfield Archive (Heartfield Archive, Akademie der Künste).