George Grosz "The Convict" Monteur John Heartfield After Franz Jung's Attempt to Get Him Up on His Feet ("Der Sträfling" Monteur John Heartfield nach Franz Jungs Versuch ihn auf die Beine zu stellen) 1920

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 505 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

In this work Grosz depicts John Heartfield, a friend, collaborator, and fellow artist involved in Berlin Dada, a politically engaged artistic movement that formed after World War I and was characterized by satire, provocation, and critical social commentary. The portrait combines delicately hued watercolors with printed images and represents Heartfield as bald and grim-faced, with clenched fists and a machine for a heart. The mechanical device indicates his identity as a constructor (monteur) of photomontages, collages made with cut-and-pasted photographs. Heartfield called himself a monteur-dada rather than an artist, and he intended his assembled images for mass reproduction only, in magazines and on book covers and posters.

Gallery label from 2024
Additional text

In this work, Grosz combined traditional, delicately hued watercolor with printed reproductions pasted in an unreal space that was inspired by the work of the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. These pictorial devices convey the satirical ideology that Grosz shared with his subject, John Heartfield, a friend and fellow Berlin Dada artist with whom he frequently collaborated. Heartfield is depicted as bald and grim-faced, with clenched fists and a machine for a heart—the personification of the politically defiant antiauthoritarian, which was the stance Heartfield took in his own art.

His uniform and the drab walls and floor suggest a prisoner in his cell, and the segmented view of a building in the distance, as if glimpsed through a narrow window, bears the mordant inscription “Lots of luck in your new home.” The mechanical device indicates Heartfield’s identity as an engineer or constructor (monteur) of photomontages, collages made with cut-and-pasted photographs. In fact, Heartfield called himself a monteur-dada rather than an artist, and he intended his assembled images for mass reproduction only, in magazines and on book covers and posters.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

The title of this dual portrait refers to the artists close friend and collaborator John Heartfield, while the face is that of Grosz himself. The figures uniform and the drab, spartan surroundings suggest a sanatorium, where both artists spent time: Heartfield in 1915, after having feigned a nervous breakdown during his military service; and Grosz in 1917, after having suffered or simulated mental instability just one month after he was drafted. Pasted fragments of a postcard, including the words "Good luck in [your] new home," serve as a window for the tiny cell. Franz Jung, referred to in the title, was an expressionist writer and founding member of Club Dada.

Gallery label from Dada, June 18–September 11, 2006
Medium
Watercolor, ink, pencil, and cut-and-pasted printed paper on paper
Dimensions
16 1/2 x 12" (41.9 x 30.5 cm)
Credit
Gift of A. Conger Goodyear
Object number
176.1952
Copyright
© 2024 Estate of George Grosz
Department
Drawings and Prints

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Dr. Hermann Post, Berlin, then New York. Purchased from Grosz in Berlin in 1920 - at least until 1934 in New York
A. Conger Goodyear, New York. [Purchased from Hermann Post,] by 1936 – 1952
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of A. Conger Goodyear, October 1952

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