“I see the future development of painting taking place in workshops… not in any holy temple of the arts.”
Crowds in the streets shouted “God Punish England!” to voice their support of the German war effort. Because of his disgust for out-of-control nationalism, the artist Helmut Herzfeld takes on a English name. He becomes “John Heartfield.” Since his name wasn’t legally changed until later in his life, he often used either Helmut Herzfeld or John Heartfield on legal papers.
George Grosz and John Heartfield work together to create Dada masterpieces. It seem like the elements of their Dada work is simply pieces pasted together. However, each piece was carefully put in place to convey a message, a visual jolt to the viewer.
“When John Heartfield and I invented photomontage in my South End studio at five o’clock on a May morning in 1916, neither of us had any inkling of its great possibilities, nor of the thorny yet successful road it was to take. As so often happens in life, we had stumbled across a vein of gold without knowing it.” George Grosz
In 1918, John Heartfield becomes a founding member of Berlin Club Dada. George Grosz, Kurt Schwitters, Max Ernst and John Heartfield will go on to organize the First International Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920. The fair features the stunning work of Berlin Club Dada members such as Hannah Höch and Raoul Hausmann.
As the Weimar Republic continues its descent into fascism under Adolf Hitler, John Heartfield also continues to hone his political beliefs. He joins the KPD, the Germany Communist Party. The KPD is the only practical opposition to the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party. Members of the KPD are aggressive opponents of the SPD, the other German Communist Party. According to the KPD, the SPD is essentially in league with the hated National Socialist Party, headed by Adolf Hitler.
Heartfield one of the most vocal members of the KPD. He publicly voices his opinions, creating anti-fascist anti-war political art without appearing to be concerned for the consequences. He continues to speak out even while he is being savagely beaten.
From 1916 to 1929, Heartfield’s growth as a collage artist, a graphic designer, and a political activist is unprecedented. By 1929, he is poised to experience some of the most productive, brilliant, and dangerous years of his career.
By 1938, his “art as a weapon” will make him number five on The Gestapo’s Most Wanted List