Heartfield’s Collaboration

Roth, Nancy (2006) Heartfield’s Collaboration. Oxford Art Journal, 29 (3). pp. 395-418. ISSN 0142-6540

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Official URL: http://oaj.oxfordjournals.org/content/29/3/395.ful...

Abstract / Summary

This article argues that the German photomontage artist John Heartfield was in fact a media projection accomplished by at least two people at all times, and sometimes by many more—writers, newspapers, presses, and the Communist Party. John Heartfield was a name adopted by Helmut Herzfeld (1891-1920) about 1917, when he abandoned his painterly ambitions and took up the medium of political, or dialectical photomontage. The argument is based primarily on the history of Heartfield’s reception, which has been dominated by the writing of Helmut’s younger brother, Wieland Herzfelde. Through a close critical reading of Herzfelde’s texts against other texts of close associates (i.e.George Grosz) and the work itself, it constructs a picture of the Herzfeld brothers working closely together, one primarily with images, the other primarily with texts, enacting the tension in their personal relationship as the political antagonism between the National Socialists and the Communist Party, to which they were both committed.

The article represents a significant new element in the literature on Heartfield, inasmuch as the focus of this literature has been either on the political impact of Heartfield’s work or on his distinctive use of photomontage. This study presents the first systematic analysis of the way Heartfield staged political antagonism—as spaces carefully blocked and lit, with implied voices and music, often using the differences between what can be seen or heard to convey the difference between lies and truth. The article also contributes a to a growing literature on artistic collaboration, without supporting an unhelpful tendency to make generalizations about such work and so overlook a crucial resonance between the way such work is made and the way it affects its viewers.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: 10.1093/oxartj/kcl016
ISBN: 0142-6540
ISSN: 0142-6540
Depositing User: Nancy Roth
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2014 09:05
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2014 09:05
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/406

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