John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld in Berlin, Germany, 1891; died in East Berlin, 1968) pioneered the use of photomontage as savage political satire. He joined both the Dada Movement and the German branch of the Communist Party during the First World War, and continued to make political and propaganda art (in the form of stage sets and poster designs) for the rest of his life.
One of Heartfield’s most famous photomontages showed the head of Adolf Hitler montaged onto the neck of an x-rayed torso, in which the esophagus is a stack of coins and the stomach is filled with more coins, while a swastika perches in the position of the heart (its title is Adolph the Superman, Swallows Gold and Spouts Tin). Appearing in the early 1930s, Heartfield’s anti-Nazi photomontages nearly led to his arrest by the Nazis; he escaped to Prague, and later to England, but returned to Germany permanently in the 1950s.
In contrast to the collage styles of many of his fellow Dadaists, Heartfield’s style of montage never fully became irrational and abstract; satiric humor, political logic, and the class struggle motivated and determined the subject matter of his collages.