John Heartfield, born Helmut Herzfeld, was known for his political photomontages. In 1916 he and his friend George Grosz, experimented with combining pictures to create a composite image. This was the technique later named photomontage and earned him the name the inventor of photomontage. Throughout his career he used the technique to create political statements through pictures, for example he produced a number of photomontages in the 1920s for communist magazines like Arbeiter-Illustriete-Zeitung, AIZ.
Though his political leanings were made clear in his early life it was his work during the 1930s that brought him to prominence. Between 1930 and 1938 Heartfield created 240 political montages. Between 1932 and 1933 Heartfield distributed his artwork criticising the Nazis during their rise to power as posters he put on the streets of Berlin. This gained him the attention of the Nazi Party and on the 14th of April 1933 the SS broke into his apartment as he packed up to leave. He was forced to jump out of a window to escape and had to wait for hours while they searched and trashed his studio before leaving for Czechoslovakia.
In 1932 Adolf, the Superman was printed in AIZ, used the image of Hitler filled with coins to play on the irony of Hitler leading the socialist Party, but also pandering to the wealthy elites. In 1934 Heartfield made a play on the “Blood and Iron” motto of the Reich, which he put below an image of four bloody axes tied in a swastika. This was another anti-Nazi image referencing old militaristic Germany which was a motif often used by the Nazi Party. Throughout the 1930s Heartfield’s political montages were printed in Communist papers and were so damaging to the Nazi Party that he ended up as the fifth most wanted person by the Gestapo.
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