“A photograph can, by the addition of an unimportant spot of color,
become a photomontage, a work of art…”
German Dada & Anti-Fascist Graphic Designer John Heartfield
German Dada & Anti-Fascist Graphic Designer John Heartfield

Revolutionary Images. John Heartfield Changes The Face Of Publishing. 1921-1927

Revolutionary images in design and content began appearing on book covers in Berlin. The publishing house Malik-Verlag was started by John Heartfield. He and his brother, Wieland Herzfeld, were partners in Malik Verlag. Wieland ran the business side. John created the graphic designs for the interior and exterior of books. His work for Malik-Verlag proved Heartfield had come into his prime as a graphic designer. The young Berlin graphic designer created an entirely new way of highlighting the content of book. Many Malik-Verlag customers bought books without intending to read them. They simply wanted to own Heartfield’s collage images.

Heartfield designed book jackets for authors such as Upton Sinclair, Kurt Tucholsky, and Sinclair Lewis. His collage art on the front cover of their books began a story that ended on the back cover. The young Berlin graphic designer also revolutionized the way typographic appeared on books. He integrated by the letters he designed seamlessly into his collages.

His work for Malik-Verlag publishing made John Heartfield one of the most sought after graphic designers in Berlin. He was offered important high-paying position in the largest Berlin advertising agencies. To all offers, he had only one response – “No!” He knew he could not work in advertising and continue to have freedom to produce the revolutionary images he wanted to create.

John Heartfield’s 1925 book cover for the Sinclair Lewis novel Nach der Sintflut is a collage masterpiece. The ocean waves threatening to destroy a city are an eerie portent of the dangers of Global Warming. The skyscraper rising up echoes an early Mutt and Jeff cartoon. The Dada artist, along with other Dadaists, was a fan of American cartoons.

Revolutionary Images. Heartfield book cover for Upton Sinclair

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