the Superman swallows gold and spouts rubbish
John Heartfield - Photomontage 1932
Helmut Herzfeld changed his name to John Heartfield in
order to protest the anti-British hate campaign raging through
Germany. Though Heartfield was not an Expressionist
painter, he frequented their circles and exhibited his photomontage
works at the Novembergruppe exhibition in Berlin, 1929.
importantly, the Expressionist painters knew of and admired
the influential Heartfield, who had almost single handedly
invented and refined the new art of photomontage.
many of his contemporaries Heartfield
was a member of the German Communist Party (KPD), and by
late 1933 hundreds of his anti-Nazi montage works had appeared
in the popular left-wing magazine Arbeiter Illustrierte
Zeitung (Workers Illustrated Newspaper). Pictured here is
one such work, titled; Adolf der Ubermensch, schluckt
Gold und redet Blech (Adolf the Superman swallows gold
and spouts rubbish).
this photomontage the artist wished to expose the contradiction
between Adolf Hitler's anti-capitalist rhetoric and his
The illustration of the Nazi leader appears as an x-ray,
showing clearly the gold coins dropped into the demagogue's
mouth by rich industrialists, bankers, arms manufacturers,
and other big capitalists. Germany's wealthy classes saw
in Hitler a savior who would not only reap them enormous
profits but would also
help them destroy the militant workers movement and contain
the 'threat' of the Soviet Union.
Hitler came to power in 1933, Heartfield's apartment was
occupied by fascist soldiers and the artist escaped to Prague.
A year later the Nazis deprived the artist of German citizenship
and demanded that Heartfield be extradited back to Germany.
wisely fled to London England where he lived in exile until
returning to Germany in 1950. Heartfield never stopped producing
his art, nor did he loose his optimism. In exile he worked
feverishly to create works attacking fascism and he enjoyed
much celebrity in England. Eventually he resettled in East
Germany where he continued to use photomontage as a form
of social criticism. John Heartfield died in East Germany
in 1968, but he left behind a huge body of work.