1914 1915

“A photograph can, by the addition of an unimportant spot of color,
become a photomontage, a work of art…”
German Dada & Anti-Fascist Artist Activist John Heartfield

1914-1915, WWI, Berlin, & George Grosz

From 1914 to 1915, John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld) has experiences and meets people who will profoundly affect his life.

John Heartfield early influences lead to his artistic revelations of the years from 1914 to 1915. 

At the World War I German Front, he comes face-to-face with the horror and hypocrisy of war. He witnesses firsthand that political propaganda sanitizes the brutality of the German front for the benefit of the home front families who are providing human grist for the war mill.  Politics becomes an integral part of his life and his work.

In 1914, his brother, Wieland, brought the young Heartfield to Berlin. He introduces him to the right people in Berlin’s vibrant art scene. An especially important new connection for the brothers is the influential poet Else Lasker-Schüler.

The innovative artists, writers, poets, and filmmakers of Berlin were a revelation to Heartfield. It was a new art. A new way of thinking about art. A machine art that promised to sweep away the dusty portraits and landscapes in museums.

The person who would most influence Heartfield was the brilliant eccentric young artist George Grosz.

John Heartfield met George Grosz in 1915. The meeting would change their lives and the world of modern art. Heartfield and Grosz would become great friends and greater artistic collaborators with their brilliant Dada work. Their friendship would last a decade.

George Grosz first encountered the Berlin Dadaists in the guise of a Dutch businessman. Grosz wore heavy white makeup and lipstick to accent his impeccably starched suits. He claimed he was going into business by having crippled German veterans paint war slogans on pieces of shrapnel. After all he reasoned, there were plenty of cripples and even more pieces of shrapnel. Patriotic Berliners would clamor to buy these pieces of shrapnel. They would make excellent paperweights. 

Find out more by visiting the John Heartfield Chronology individual year pages.

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.

Dada Political Artist John Heartfield early influences, John Heartfield, Curator Official John Heartfield Exhibition