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Great Designers: John Heartfield

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John Heartfield is one of the most daring and influential musicians today. He was a German political artist, a pioneer in the use of photomontage, which he produced every one or two weeks, and a twentieth-century graphic designer. He used art as a tool against Adolf Hitler's fascist propaganda, which saved many lives. He received promotional training, which allowed him to blend photographs with the goal of persuading the audience to act. Heartfield did not take the portraits himself, but only employed other photographers to edit the current ones or film the ones that were unavailable. The designer’s images of his previous artistic works are as seen in the photo below.




Interviewer: Tell me about your family background?

John Heartfield: I must say I was born in a low-income family on June 19, 1891, in Berlin –Schmargengorf. I was named Helmut Franz Josef Herzfeld the name which I later changed to John Heartfield in protest against nationalism which was caused by World War (1914-1918). My parents abandoned me together with my brothers and three sisters in the woods. It Separated us, and we grew up at the mercy of foster homes. At one point we stayed with the mayor of a nearby town. I, however, maintained a very close relationship with my brothers. I later married Helene Balzer in 1917, and in 1918 we were blessed with one son Tom. Barbara Friedman and Gertrud are my second and third wives.

Interviewer: So what made you become a political artist?

John Heartfield: It was in 1916 that I heard shouts of “God punish England”. The cries were becoming too familiar, and that disgusted me, and deep within me, I knew that I had to do something to save my people from such. I decided to use my talent, not for my glory but to serve the common good. I enrolled in Munich to study Arts and Crafts after which I found a job as a commercial artist. I eventually joined Berlin Club called Dada in 1917 and managed to be the most important figure, and that is where my journey of being a political artist took off.

Interviewer: kindly tell me some of the achievements you made in your life?

John Heartfield: In 1917, I founded the publishing house in Berlin called Malik-Verlag where my brother Wieland and I became partners, and I became the art editor and administrator. In 1920, I helped to organise the Erste International Dada – Messe in Berlin and I co-founded the Berlin chapter of Dada which is known for producing absurdist literature works and theatre as a way of challenging the conventions that have been accepted by the society. I was one of the most vital members. I also played a very crucial role in assisting Brecht to find out the ‘Alienation Effect’ which I did through my playwright. I fought for world peace too mostly through montages which include; there can be no peace, the meaning of Geneva and Where capital lives. My input in artistic work also cannot be ignored. I engrave pictures into the printing plate to send the intended message to my audience. Those are some of my achievements.

Interviewer: What are some of the challenges and threats you encountered in the course of your life?

John Heartfield: I remember in 1950 I was denied health benefits and was even unable to work that was after being denied admission to the Academy of Arts. My health deteriorated. In 1937, my works got removed at the exhibition in Prague

Works Cited

Blumberg, Naomi. John Heartfield. 16 January 2016. Online. 24 October 2017.

July 24, 2021


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