<< HEARTFIELD CHRONOLOGY – ALL YEARS1993 2011 2013 2016


“After a telephone call from your brother John Heartfield, I was trying to clearify the question of the copyright of the work of John Heartfield, whose archive – after dissolution of the former Akademie Der Künste der DDR – is belonging since 1st May to our Akademie Der Künste (West). Yesterday, I spoke with the president of our Akademie, Prof. Walter Jens, so that I now can officially confirm, that the Akademie Der Künste does not claim the Verwertungsrcrechte (copyright) of the works of John Heartfield.
The Verwertungsrcrechte (copyright) are in the possession of the community of heirs […]”
Dr. Wolfgang Trautwein, Archiv direktor In A Letter To John J Heartfield's Sister, Catherine Jacobson, July 9, 1993
Dr. Wolfgang Trautwein, Archiv direktor In A Letter To John J Heartfield's Sister, Catherine Jacobson, July 9, 1993

Heartfield Copyrights For The 1993 MOMA Exhibition Of Original Art By John Heartfield, 1993

In 1993, the first truly major exhibition of John Heartfield’s original art tours Europe and the United States. It ends in New York at the world-famous Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA). MOMA devotes its entire second floor to Heartfield’s anti-fascist masterpieces. The exhibition space is jam-packed with MOMA visitors who have their first opportunity to view close-up the anti-Nazi masterpieces that John Heartfield created with his own hands. Art critics, including The New York Times, agree that John Heartfield is indeed a modern art genius.

Yet, in a stunning turn of events, the MOMA exhibition is almost cancelled shortly before it is scheduled to begin. MOMA is one of the premier art museums in America. The MOMA director in charge of mounting the Heartfield exhibition is shocked that MOMA’s competence to conserve art is challenged at the last minute by Wolfgang Trautwein of the Akademie Der Künste. The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Wolfgang Trautwein on August 24, 1990:

“After the discussions with the MOMA New York, I continued to urge the Museum of Modern Art San Francisco, where the [Heartfield] exhibition is at the moment, to guarantee the utmost best conservatory conditions, even threatening to retire the works, if this is not done.”

The John Heartfield Exhibition curator, John J Heartfield, wishes to express his gratitude to the brilliant Magdalena Dubrowski. Ms. Dubrowski was the director of MOMA’s Department of Drawings in 1993. It was her expertise, devotion, and patience that made the 1993 MOMA John Heartfield Exhibition such a huge success.

It was Wolfgang Trautwein who oversaw the process of unifying the West and East German Academies of Art into a single institution. There was absolutely no notice or consideration regarding John Heartfield’s art given to the heirs of John Heartfield. In East Germany, all possessions, regardless of any private documents or agreements, belonged to the state. Heartfield’s art legacy was such a possession. It was simply absorbed by an art institution in West Germany. The Heartfield Archive, East German Academy of Art, simply became the Heartfield Archive, Academy of Art (Heartfield Archiv, Akademie Der Künste) in the united Germany.

This unification was supported by the Federal States of Berlin and Brandenburg. The Akademie der Künste’s new constitution is the work of the two Presidents – Heiner Müller (East) and Walter Jens (West). In 1994, Walter Jens becomes the first President of the united Akademie der Künste.

There were some wrinkles. From 1969 – 1993, the Akademie Der Künste claimed copyright permission, approved copyrights, required copyright acknowledgment, and collected copyright fees for reproductions of John Heartfield’s art. The Akademie Der Künste knew of John Heartfield’s heirs. Any competent archive director should have been aware of enough European copyright law to know that copyrights always remains with the legal heirs of the artist. However, this copyright notation on the major catalogue book John Heartfield clearly shows the Akademie der Künste was either unaware or unconcerned with European copyright law regarding John Heartfield’s art.

© für das Werk John Heartfields, Akademie der Künste zu Berlin, vertreten durch VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 1991
(Copyright for the works of John Heartfield, Akademie der Künste zu Berlin, represented by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 1991)

Heartfield heirs, John J Heartfield and his sister, Catherine Jacobson, must hire attorneys to challenge the many years of copyright violation by the Akademie Der Künste

The quote above shows that in 1993 Wolfgang Trautwein, director of the Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste, finally concedes that copyright permission for John Heartfield’s work does not belong to the Akademie Der Künste.

It is almost comical that Wolfgang Trautwein’s letter states that only a brief conversation with the president of the Akademie der Künste was enough to make it clear “that the Akademie Der Künste does not claim the Verwertungsrcrechte (copyright) of the works of John Heartfield.” In his letter to Heartfield’s rightful heirs, Wolfgang Trautwein offered no apology, reason, or justification for the years of violation of international copyright law.

The curator, John J Heartfield, can now approve copyright requests for your project. Professor Heartfield wants to see his grandfather’s art against fascism and war in as many venues as possible. Therefore, the copyright approval process is simple and quick. Please CLICK “About John Heartfield Copyrights” to learn how to get approval for your project:

About John Heartfield Copyrights

In April, 2014, it is the same Wolfgang Trautwein who categorically who will categorically refuse John J Heartfield’s request for photographs or scans of his grandfather’s original art held inside the John Heartfield Archive. One of the reasons? Professor Heartfield does not have copyright permission to reproduce his grandfather’s art!

The process of negotiating for photographs and scans of John Heartfield’s art continues currently continues with the latest director of the Heartfield Archiv, Werner Heegevaldt. At the moment, the Heartfield Archiv may be willing to provide the curator, John J Heartfield, with some photographs or scans of his grandfather’s art provided he signs an agreement not to display them on social media! It is impossible to imagine a position that would be more opposed to John Heartfield’s desire to show his work in as many venues as possible. A desire for which the anti-fascist artist risked his life.

Please refer to the ever-growing section of this exhibition entitled Hidden Genius for a more information about  Heartfield Archive and the Akademie Der Künste (Germany Academy of Art).



MOMA Exhibition, New York, 1993

John Heartfield Copyrights for 1993 MOMA Exhibition Catalog

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