<< HEARTFIELD CHRONOLOGY - ALL YEARS1957 1958 1960 1962 1964 1968

“Hardly anybody nowadays will deny
that Heartfield was a great artist – although
I think there are only a few who could say why.
That has always been a very difficult question.
Seen from a distance,
Heartfield was a simple person; at close range,
a complicated person – or better still – a person
with an immense span. He was a wise man and
a child. An awful, hairsplitting pedant and a very
successful artist. He was someone who loved
and someone who hated. […] The world and
our lives seem very complicated. Heartfield
made them transparent.”
Werner Klemke, 1968

John Heartfield Final Years As Outspoken Pacifist Against Masters Of War, 1957 – 1968

From 1957 to 1968, life in East Germany became easier for John Heartfield. However, years of institutional neglect and the Stasi persecution had taken their toll. He was never again as prolific an artist as he was during his WW2 anti-Nazi period. But nothing could prevent him from being a vital outspoken man of the people. He could travel outside the GDR on “temporary visas.” It allowed him to spend time with his family.

NOTE: See Questions For John Heartfield’s Grandson for his grandson’s memories of his vacations with his famous grandfather.

In 1968, Heartfield was scheduled to attend an exhibition in Czechoslovakia on a temporary visa. On the day he left the GDR, he spent some time in the morning dictating and signing a three-page will with his third wife, Gertrud. Everything the prolific artist owned, including all of his surviving art, was to be inherited by Gertrud. There was no mention of his children, Tom George Heartfield or Eva Sondermeijer. There was also no mention of Heartfield’s beloved brother, Wieland Herzfelde. It was Wieland, along with Willi Münzenberg, who can reasonably be considered responsible for the vast majority of Heartfield’s professional success as an artist.Tom George Heartfield had supported his father financially and emotionally throughout his life. In letter, Gertrud later apologized to Tom. She wrote that, because of “the state,” Tom could not be mentioned in the will.Shortly after signing this will, John Heartfield passed away in April of 1968 in East Berlin. He is buried near the home of Bertolt Brecht.

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Professor John J Heartfield is John Heartfield’s paternal grandson. Professor Heartfield presented Art & Politics, Politics & Art at the DADA WORLD FAIR in San Francisco. Please write to him about his live presentation regarding the relevance of his grandfather’s life and work to current events.

Dada Political Artist John Heartfield grandson, John Heartfield, Curator Official John Heartfield Exhibition