German Dada Artist John Heartfield

John Heartfield In A Reflective Mood

John Heartfield, born Helmut Herzfeld, (June 19, 1891–April 26, 1968) was a pioneer in the use of art as a political weapon during the Weimar Republic and against the insanity of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

Despite the violent content in many of his montage, Heartfield was a lifelong pacifist.

Near the end of his life, he was asked whether his photomontages were made in the framework of party function or on personal artistic initiative. His answer was quick and pointed: “I was never a functionary.”

In an interview with the English art historian Francis Klingender, Heartfield described Dada as an effort to disturb the higher impulses of the intellect – the spiritual, mystical, and subjective – but only in order to get at the truth behind them. Dada was the first “ism,” he said, to insist on a new content rather than simply a new form.

The two paragraphs above are excerpts from the essay, Heartfield and Modern Art by Nancy Roth in John Heartfield (ABRAMS Publishing).

“I lost my parents in 1899 and thereafter lived as an orphan with different families.”

“The important man is not the artist, but the businessman who, in the marketplace and on the battlefield, holds the reins in his hands.”
“We were supposed to play letter carriers and deliver the [Berliner] Lokal-Anzeiger, that despised war-mongering paper, to the philistines of the Grunewald district, along with their letters. I went to the nearest storm drain and threw the letters and everything into the culvert.”

“More than films with hidden, political-propagandistic ideas, such as those that the English produce particularly well…is the effect of a thoroughly objective film of quality….Quality can never be bypassed. Even though America is our enemy, we praise American films, their quality must be recognized. They accomplish a propagandistic effect. Those who hate Germany are not easily persuaded with political resourcefulness…Quality [by contrast] will always conquer, convince, carry one along, provoke one to think, and persuade, and it is therefore the best propaganda.”
John Heartfield
John Heartfield