John Heartfield was a German artist and a pioneer in the use of art as a political weapon, his photomontages contained anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist statements and were banned in his home country during the Nazi regime, then re discovered in the Democratic Republic in the late 50’s. Since then, his art has influenced generations of artists and graphic designers.
Heartfield was born in 1891 as Helmut Herzfeld, changed his name in part as a way to protest World War I; he even faked madness to avoid returning to the service. He used his collage work as a political medium, incorporating images from the political journals of the day.
He edited “Der DADA” and organized the First International DADA Fair in Berlin in 1920. Dada originated in Switzerland in 1916 as a reaction to World War I. It was started by a group of artists who wanted to break the traditional boundaries of distinct art forms. This symbolized the movement as a whole, as the artists were attempting to protest war, greed and the corrupt powers that existed.
Dada influenced almost every artistic principle of our time. Present day “avant-garde” is rooted in Dada, as well as most of modern advertising. Protests in the US during the 1960s simulate those of the Dadaists in Zurich, Berlin and Paris during and after World War II.
Adolf, the Superman (published in the Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) used a montaged X-ray to expose gold coins in the Fuehrer’s esophagus leading to a pile in his stomach as he rants against the fatherland’s enemies.