1891 1899 1905 1908 1912 1913

Helmut Herzfeld Early Years – Before He Became John Heartfield

Born into poverty, Helmut Herzfeld (John Heartfield), his brother, Wieland, and their two sisters, Charlotte and Hertha, were abandoned in an isolated cottage in the woods by their mentally disturbed parents. Heartfield was the eldest child. He was eight years old. The children were taken in by Aigen’s mayor, a man known as “Uncle Ignaz” who was unrelated to the children. Helmut Herzfeld, who changed his name in 1916 to John Heartfield, was a rebellious child. He was sent to a Catholic home for unruly children, where he was brutalized by the nuns. Helmut prayed each night for his Protestant God to forgive him for being forced to say their Catholic prayers. He found his purpose in life early on. He wanted more than anything to be an artist. He studied with excellent teachers, including Ernst Neumann in 1913. He honed his skills as an advertising graphics designer. He exhibited some talent as a painter of oil paintings, mostly landscapes.These people and events shaped him until his art and his life took a dramatic turn when he met and became friends with the eccentric artistic genius, George Grosz. Shortly afterwards he burned all his paintings and began a journey that would define him as an artistic genius and a political art giant.

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

The John Heartfield Life Story will always grow.

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.

helmut herzfeld Dada Political Artist John Heartfield grandson John Heartfield Curator John Heartfield Exhibition