John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld; 19 June 1891 - 26 April 1968) was a visual artist who pioneered the use of photomontage. Some of his most famous works were anti-Nazi and anti-fascist. We consider John Heartfield one of the “Grandfathers” of New Art Brut. His work is as vital and significant now as it was then. Heartfield’s life was an example of artistic genius combined with a heroism that went far beyond the required courage of any great artist. From 1930 to 1938, Heartfield designed 240 pieces of anti-Nazi art for the AIZ [Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung], a magazine published by the New German Press in Berlin. From 1930-1933, Heartfield’s scathing anti-Nazi montages were clearly visible on Berlin Streets until Easter Sunday, April 1933, when he narrowly escaped across
the Sudeten Mountains to
Czechoslovakia where he rose to
number-five on the Gestapo’s most wanted list. Heartfield found temporary refugee status in England in 1938. However, he was forced to return to East Berlin in 1950 when he was denied permanent refugee status. As a young Berlin resident, Heartfield had joined The German Communist Party (KPD) along with many other idealistic artists and writers. The KPD was the greatest political challenge to the rise of Adolf Hitler and The Nazi Party. The 1950 East German Communist Party was not composed of political idealists. Upon his return to East Berlin, Heartfield was interrogated by the Stasi and nearly tried for treason against the state because of the length of his stay in England.
For six years, Heartfield was denied permission to teach, unable to work as an artist and denied health benefits. After six years of official neglect by the East German Akademie der Künste [Academy of Arts], Bertolt Brecht and Stefan Heym intervened on Heartfield’s behalf. He was admitted to the GDR AdK in 1956. However, his health never improved. The later years of life were devoted to designing brilliant costumes, stage sets, and stage projection for the East German Theatre. John Heartfield died on April 26, 1968 in East Berlin. For more of Heartfield's art, artists influenced by his work, along with photos & videos from his grandson's collection, please visit: https://www.johnheartfield.com/John-Heartfield-Exhibition/