History of Collage and Photomontage: Rachel Lentz

Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk, published in Arbeiter-illustrierte-Zeitung in 1932. Grove Art: Photomontage

The world today is a far cry from the world of the 19th or even 20th century. The pace of life has quickened and with it art styles. The advent of photography allowed for a new form of art to be displayed, photomontage. Photomontage is not to be confused with Collage art which appeared around the same time in the early 20th century. Photomontage is the layering of purely photographic sources, generally into more realistic photo art. Collages expressed the same creative layering effect but used the more characteristically chaotic and medium blending method of layering different substances to create art. These developing art styles are a response to changing times at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. With an increased pace of life so did art change to represent this. Photomontage art was able to comment on the first world war and the chaos it inspired. It was later adopted as a means of propaganda and advertising as it assimilated into the art world. As such there are several artists who used it to criticize the political climate of the time. One such artist was John Heartfield. He pioneered photomontage as a satirical device in Germany and used it to criticize the Nazi regime such in his piece, Aldolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk. 

Whoever reads bourgeois newspapers becomes blind and deaf: away with the stultifying bandages! (1930) Collage art by John Heartfield. Information and translation found at The Art Story.

John Heartfield also had other pieces that commented on the political climate of the day, like his piece of the young man with his head wrapped in newspaper, “Whoever reads bourgeois newspapers becomes blind and deaf: away with the stultifying bandages!” This comments on the complacency that Heartfield saw in how people formed their opinions from the media they read. He also comments on photomontage itself in a way, as it was easily massed produced like newspapers, so he strove to show how it was used in propaganda and other bias works.

John Heartfield’s style uses unity to match strong lines and strong subjects together and harmonious elements to recreate the realism of traditional art. This is then contrasted as the reader analyzes the work more carefully, noticing the distinct turn and satirical meaning the pictures truly hold. Heartfield’s work is mean to invoke thought and inspire people to be critical of their world. This was needed and still in needed in times of mass information, propaganda, and the more modern day issues of “Fake News”.


1.) The Art Story

2.) Grove Art Online: Photomontage

3.) Grove Art Online: Collage

4.) John Lovett: Design





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