John Heartfield Photo montages

Issue section: 
(372)

Tate Modern currently has a display of 54 works by the German artist John Heartfield (1891-1968).

Heartfield pioneered photomontage and used the technique of cutting up and combining photographic images to strong political effect. His most famous works were powerful satirical attacks on Hitler and the Nazis.

Heartfield was born Helmut Herzfelde. He anglicised his name during the First World War in protest against German nationalism.

Heartfield combined radical art as part of the avant-garde artistic movement of Berlin Dada (along with the artists Otto Dix and George Grosz) with revolutionary politics. In 1919 Heartfield was sacked from the film service for calling for a strike in response to the murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg by right wing paramilitaries. The following year he joined the German Communist Party.

Bertolt Brecht once observed, "John Heartfield is one of the most important European artists. He works in a field that he created himself, the field of photomontage. Through this new form of art he exercises social criticism steadfastly on the side of the working class."

The display of Heartfield's work can be found in Room 5, Level 2, at the Tate Modern and is free.