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Art & Photography


John Heartfield (1891-1968)

john hertfield the meaning of the hitler

This picture is among the many hundreds produced by John Heartfield in the late 20s/early 30s. It was not created for art dealers or galleries but the front cover of a popular German magazine.


Its title:The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little Man Asks for Big Gifts (October 1932)


Hitler is shown standing in front of a large man who represents big business. The man is handing over money to Hitler. Printed underneath are the words: "Motto: Millions stand behind me! A little man asks for gifts".

Heartfield used a difference in scale to dramatise Hitler's relationship to Germany's wealthy and financially supportive industrialists.


The leader is a puppet whose now infamous gesture reads as the acceptance of monetary influence. This is typical of Heartfield’s work in the 30s. He used photomontage as a political weapon to challenge fascism before the 2nd World War. For Heartfield new political problems demanded new means of propaganda.


Much of his work at this time appeared on the cover of the Communist magazine, Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ, Workers' Illustrated Newspaper), a popular weekly whose circulation rivaled any magazine in Germany during the early nineteen-thirties.


Hurrah, The Butter's Finished!

The text at the bottom is a Goering quote "Iron always makes a country strong, butter and lard only make people  fat"

Hannah Hoch

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 Heads of State. 1920 .Hannah Hoch   

German Reich president Friedrich Ebert and Defence minister Gustav Noske. who had recently and ruthlessly put down the Spartacist Rebellion, are presented frolicking in a  fantasy land, as if they are unaware of the intense hardships and political and financial problems being faced by Germany and its citizens during this period. 

The embroidery-pattern background alludes to a source of income and occupation for many German women at this time and serves to contrast the role of women with that of men. The collage is arranged so that it looks like the two figures have been caught in the net of the embroidery pattern, and it positions these paunchy heads of state as worthy of ridicule in the process of stripping them of their usual trappings of masculinity. At the same time, the composition attacks the patriarchy and questions the arbitrary values projected onto different art forms by society.

About Photomontage

Heartfield was influenced and helped form a new artistic language called Photomontage. This refers to the process of making a composite photograph by cutting, gluing, rearranging, and overlapping two or more photographs into a new image. Sometimes the resulting composite image is photographed so that a final image may appear as a seamless photographic print.


It was first used as a technique by the Dadaists in 1915 in their protests against the First World War. It was later adopted by the surrealists who exploited the possibilities photomontage offered by using free association to bring together widely disparate images, to reflect the workings of the unconscious mind.

The impact of Heartfield's images was so great that they helped transform photomontage into a powerful form of mass communication. He was a pioneer of modern photomontage. For Heartfield new political problems demanded new means of propaganda. For this task, photography possessed the greatest power of persuasion. His work targeted the Nazis, aimed at highlighting their absurdities, and those who were backing them in Germany.


Good montage has the effect of a good joke. Many of Heartfield’s best jokes – which in being funny lost none of their savageries – involve the use of Nazi rhetoric. These could be words and phrases employed by the Nazis and their obsession with gestures. In Heartfield’s hands, they are turned on his target with enormous force.


Heartfield believed that photomontage achieved a kind of truth of which painting is not capable. If his scenes had been painted, they would have seemed impossibly overwrought. Only the realism of the photos, its factual content, made his work credible.


In 1923, the Russian constructivist Aleksandra Rodchenko began experimenting with photomontage as a way of creating striking socially engaged imagery concerned with the placement and movement of objects in space.

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Political Football, Aleksander Rodchenko, 1930. 

1930 was the year of the World Cup. Rodchenko shows a fight not between opposing teams but between working-class footballers and the London police.

Peter Kennard

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Haywain with Cruise Missiles, 1980. Peter Kennard

Peter Kennard is a London-born and based photomontage artist.


He is best known for the images he created for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the 1970s–80s including a détournement of John Constable's The Hay Wain called "Haywain with Cruise Missiles".


He also produced powerful photomontages attacking the Iraq War. He has been described as the UK's Unofficial War Artist.

Ten Key Political Photographers/Artists

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Hannah Hooch


Max Ernst

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Richard Hamilton

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Ingrid Pollard


Josep Renau


Peter Kennard

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Rebecca Belmore

Barbara Kruger


Nancy Spero


Betye Saar

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