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John Heartfield

Biographies
John Heartfield

*  1891 Berlin
† 1968 Berlin


Helmut Herzfelde (John Heartfield) was born in Berlin in 1891. He started off by serving an apprenticeship as a bookseller in 1905/06 before going to Munich, where he studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule from 1908 to 1911. After finishing his studies, John Heartfield went to Mannheim, where he worked briefly as a graphic artist before returning to his native Berlin for more study, this time at the Kunst- und Handwerkerschule. John Heartfield was inducted into the German armed forces in 1915/16. Helmut Herzfelde chose the pseudonym John Heartfield in 1916 in protest against the anti-British mood then prevailing in Germany. In 1916 John Heartfield and his brother Wieland Herzfelde founded Malik Verlag in Berlin. The Dada movement was growing apace in Berlin, too, by 1917; its leading exponents apart from the Herzfelde brothers (pseudonyms: H. Herzfeld and John Heartfield) were Johannes Baader, George Grosz, Hannah Höch, and Raoul Hausmann. The Berlin Dadaists found the journal "Neue Jugend". Contact with George Grosz exerted a profound influence on John Heartfield. Heartfield worked with George Grosz for the leftwing satirical publications "Die Pleite" and "Der Knüppel". In 1917 John Heartfield also joined the KPD (German Communist Party). Between 1924 and 1933 John Heartfield did a great many illustrations for the Communist Party mouthpiece, the "Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung". John Heartfield often worked with photocollages, mounting them together to create pictures that made an extraordinarily powerful statement. From these works grew John Heartfield's political photomontages, which reveal the influence of George Grosz, among them the works contained in the 1929 Kurt Tucholsky text collection "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles". In the 1920s John Heartfield designed his first stage sets for Erwin Piscator and Max Reinhardt. In 1933 John Heartfield became an exile in Prague, fleeing to England in 1939. By 1950 John Heartfield was back in Germany, living at first in Leipzig. Later he again designed stage scenery in East Berlin, working for Bertold Brecht and others.