At left is a stage photograph of the “Fashion Salon” set.
John Heartfield characterized the western culture with detailed gaudy sets for David Berg’s Mother Riba ( Mutter Riba ). He designed and built stage sets for the East German theatre that were considered masterpieces of twentieth century stage set design.
John Heartfield showed a remarkable ability to store images in his visual memory. He could access those memories whenever he needed inspiration.
Returning to East Germany was difficult for Heartfield. He had written to the Czech Refugee Fund pleading to be allowed to remain in England for “my work and my health.” He wanted to be near the British Museum because he wanted to add add pieces of that enormous collection to the vault of images in his mind.
But Heartfield was facinated by more than the art work in the British Museum. London streets, people, interiors, and buildings all became elements of his palette. He used them to powerful effect when he created stage sets for the East German Theatre. The use of his visual memories of the years he lived in England are especially clear in the work he did for David Berg’s Mutter Riba ( Mother Riba ).
In effect, Heartfield created a collage of ads, comics, and illustrations for East German theatre productions.