Heartfield: Comrades

This is the English version of a text that appeared in print as:

Nancy Roth, (2010) “Kamaraden und Kohlköpfe: John Heartfield im Universum der technischen Bilder,” [Comrades and Cabbageheads, John Heartfield in the Universe of Technical Images] tr. Manuela Klaut, 123-136 in Medien Denken: Von der Bewegung des Begriffs zu bewegten Bildern, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

The article considers the relationship between John Heartfield (1891-1968) and his brother, Wieland Herzfelde (1895-1988) as evidence of the rising force of visual media–or more exactly, of  “technical images,” and corresponding weakening of writing and print, between roughly 1917 and 1960.  Heartfield is best-known for his photomontages, full-page, topical combinations of image and text published between 1930 and 1938 in the A.-I.-Z. (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung).   In my conviction that the name “John Heartfield” always referred to a collaboration between at least the two brothers, and often many others as well (for argument, see  “Heartfield’s Collaboration,” 395-418 IN: Oxford Art Journal 29,3, 2006), I argue here that Wieland Herzfelde initially kept, or appeared to keep, a distance from his brother’s work. Wieland barely participated in Berlin Dada, and kept own writing, publishing and administration of the book press Malik Verlag fairly distinct from his brother’s engagements with animated film and set design. After both brothers returned to Germany (East) after 1945, they signed all work–mainly set design, “Gebruder Heartfield-Herzfelde,” something like “Heartfield-Herzfelde Bros.” and Wieland acknowledged his own collaboration in the photomontage work retroactively.