John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld; 19 June 1891 – 26 April 1968) was an artist and a pioneer in the use of art as a political weapon. Some of his photomontages were anti-Nazi and anti-fascist statements. Heartfield also created book jackets for authors such as Upton Sinclair, as well as stage sets for such noted playwrights as Bertolt Brecht and Erwin Piscator.
Heartfield was a native Berliner whose parents were political activists and socialists. During the Weimar years, he joined the communist party, became a member of the Berlin-Club Dada, associating with other members such as Erwin Piscator, Bertolt Brecht, Hannah Höch, among others. During the 1920s, Heartfield produced a great number of photomontages, many of which were reproduced as dust jackets for books such as his montage for Upton Sinclair’s The Millennium.
Heartfield lived in Berlin until April 1933, when the National Socialists took power. On Good Friday, the SS broke into his apartment, and the 5’2″ Heartfield escaped by jumping from his balcony and hiding in a trash bin. He left Germany by walking over the Sudeten Mountains to Czechoslovakia.
In Czechoslovakia, John Heartfield rose to number-five on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list.
Following the war, Heartfield settled in East Berlin, East Germany and worked closely with theatre directors such as Benno Besson and Wolfgang Langhoff at Berliner Ensemble and Deutsches Theater
John Heartfield died on April 26, 1968 in East Berlin, German Democratic Republic. He was buried close to Brecht’s former home..
Hurrah, die Butter ist Alle! (English: Hurray, the Butter is All Gone!) was published on the front page of the AIZ in 1935. A parody of the aesthetics of propaganda, the photomontage shows a German family at a dinner table eating a bicycle, where a nearby portrait of Hitler hangs and the wallpaper is emblazoned with swastikas. The baby gnaws on an executioner’s axe, also emblazoned with a swastika, and the dog licks a huge nut and bolt. Below, the title is written in large letters, in addition to a quote by Hermann Göring during food shortage. Translated, the quote reads: “Hooray, the butter is all gone!” Göring said in one Hamburg address: “Iron ore has made the Reich strong. Butter and dripping have, at most, made the people fat”.
Anti-Fascist Imagery: “Hurrah, the Butter is Gone!” (December 19, 1935)
The leftist weekly Worker’s Illustrated Newspaper [Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung] was published from 1921 to 1938. At first, it focused on the construction of the Soviet state in Russia. Later, it began reporting on subjects pertinent to the German working class and settled upon the goal of advancing the political education of workers. Founded by the Communist Willi Münzenberg (1889-1940), the newspaper published articles, illustrations, and photomontages by well-known writers and artists such as George Grosz, Maxim Gorki, Käthe Kollwitz, John Heartfield, Anna Seghers, Erich Kästner, and Kurt Tucholsky. By the time Hitler was appointed chancellor, the paper’s circulation had grown to over 500,000. After the Nazi takeover in 1933, Worker’s Illustrated Newspaper had to move its operations from Berlin to Prague, where it continued to appear until the German invasion in 1938.
This 1935 photomontage by Dada artist John Heartfield is a parody of a speech by Hermann Göring, a quote from which is included at the bottom of the image. It reads: “Ore has always made an empire strong, butter and lard have made a country fat at most.” Göring, who was in charge of the Four-Year Plan and thus responsible for the industrial and military rearmament of the country, repeatedly demanded an increase in the iron industry’s productive capacity to boost the exploitation of domestic ores. In 1937, his demands culminated in the founding of the “Reich Works Hermann Göring,” which sought to compete with the traditional iron industry of the Ruhr Region. The quote used here, which stems from a 1935 speech in Hamburg, is an example of the aggressive, militarist rhetoric Göring employed to convince Germans of the necessity of making sacrifices for the country’s rearmament – even if this entailed food shortages. Heartfield’s montage shows a typical German family, whose patriotism and loyalty to the Nazis is illustrated by several details: the Hitler portrait; the swastika-patterned wallpaper; the sofa cushion bearing Hindenburg’s likeness, and the framed verse in the upper left “Lieb Vaterland magst ruhig sein” [“Dear Fatherland, no danger thine”], which stems from the 19th-century patriotic song “Die Wacht am Rhein” [“The Watch on the Rhine”]. In their blind loyalty to the Führer, this family even seems to have forgotten that iron is no substitute for food and instead cheers: “Hurrah, the butter is gone!”