Friday, March 7, 2008

John Heartfield IVAM and Geschichte Der Arbeiter Illustierten Zeitung 1921-1938


I have written about John Heartfield before on 5B4 Photography and Books so if you happen to be unfamiliar with his work then I will refer you to my posting on September 5th of last year. I have recently found two more books on this remarkable artist that are well worth mentioning.

The first book is from the IVAM Center in Spain which has had a long history of publishing fine catalogs from their exhibitions and collection. The center has in its holdings a wealth of material from Heartfield’s career including his Dada publications, cover designs for the Malik publishing house and photomontages from his 8 year stint with Arbeiter Illustierten Zeitung (AIZ) the political workers magazine that aroused opposition to the rise of fascism during the 1930’s.

John Heartfield el la Colleccion del IVAM is a 170 page, full color catalog that was published in 2001. What makes this a good collection is that it describes much of Heartfield’s work illustrating and designing the covers of books from Editorial Malik which were the publishers of later German editions of Upton Sinclair’s writing. Sinclair’s books 100%, The Metropolis, The Jungle, King Coal, Oil, Alcohol, Jimmie Higgins, Boston, Money Writes among others featured photomontages by Heartfield and occasionally a couple of illustrations by George Grosz.

One of the more interesting facts for me is that Heartfield contributed the cover design for the 1931 number 12 edition of USSR Im Bau which was the German printing of the now highly collectible USSR In Construction magazine. Heartfield’s design features several angled oil derricks looming into the sky with a large 5 In 2 1/2 on the back cover. The numbers refer to the success of the first of Stalin’s 5 year plans in reaching their production goals in oil and energy. For those who always wondered what 5B4 means, it refers to accomplishing other Soviet production goals in 4 years instead of 5.

John Heartfield el la Colleccion del IVAM is full of illustrations as well as a good introduction to Heartfield’s life and work by Josep Salvador. The reproductions are very well done as is the whole presentation of the book. The texts are in both Spanish and English.


The second book I will mention is one that I discovered at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair a few weeks back. What caught my eye was the title in large red letters on the white cloth covers, AIZ 1921-1938. Knowing that AIZ was the Arbeiter Illustierten Zeitung magazine, my interest was immediately peaked but the $90.00 price made me think twice. Luckily I resisted and discovered that this 1975 German publication from Dietz Verlag in Berlin is incredibly inexpensive through several listings online. My copy with a dust jacket all in very good condition ran me a whole $10.00. The catch is that you may have to order your copy from a bookseller in Berlin. Even so, with shipping it was around $28.00.

Geschichte Der Arbeiter Illustierten Zeitung 1921-1938 by Heinz Willmann is a great source if you would like to see what the inside of 17 years worth of AIZ issues looked like. This book is illustrated with hundreds of spreads that show the actual magazines page layouts, photographs and texts.

As we know by now, Heartfield contributed his provocative images to the covers and interior of AIZ and VI for several years, this has been well documented extensively in the Kent Gallery book John Heartfield AIZ/VI 1930-1938 I featured before, but Geschichte Der Arbeiter Illustierten Zeitung 1921-1938 does not concentrate on just Heartfield but also shows much of the other content from other contributors.

Unfortunately, there is no English edition of this book that I am aware of so the extensive text by Willmann is of no help to me. The book is really interesting for its illustrations which are decently produced but much of the other aspects of this book make it fairly average. The paper stock is very thin and the layout can feel a little dry as Willmann’s text flows alongside the illustrations. At 360 pages, it is probably about as complete a study of AIZ and VI that has been published.

My copy also came with a small 16 page facsimile of the April 19, 1934 copy of AIZ which features a Heartfield cover image of Goebbels fitting Hitler with a Karl Marx beard. The text reads, Mimicry: When all attempts to convey National Socialist ideas to the working class failed, Goebbels had one last desperate idea: he persuaded the “Fuhrer” to wear a Karl Marx beard in the future when addressing workers.

Book Available Here (John Heartfield IVAM)
Book Available Here (John Heartfield AIZ/VI)

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