Adolf the Übermensch: Swallows gold and spouts junk, AIZ 11. no. 29, July 17
This photomontage reveals Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialists, as orator, who speaks mere rhetoric or rather junk. Heartfield playfully integrates an authentic likeness of Hitler with an x-ray image of a torso, which exposes the ribs and esophagus, to show how Adolf, a gluttonous swallower of big industry's money, spouts meaningless words. Monetary exchange is made physically real and at once repulsive as it is presented in the abstract form of a digestive body, which symbolizes a system of ingestion and suggested regurgitation. Heartfield's montage, published in the AIZ, preceded an article that examined the distinction between the anticapitalist rhetoric of the Nazis and their pro-capitalistic practices. It showcases Heartfield's play with fantasy and reality to provoke critical thinking.
The precedent for this photomontage is French artist Honoré Daumier's scandalous Gargantua, a political cartoon, inspired by Rabelais's gluttonous tale about the giant Gargantua and his son Pantagruel, which places the bulbous body of French King Louis-Philippe I at the center of monetary digestion. Exhausted, gaunt workers and tired mothers gather at the bottom of a plank to drop their coins into baskets, which the king's ministers carry up to the his pear-shaped head and deposit them into his gaping mouth with assembly-line efficiency. Heartfield's montage like Daumier's, according to the art historian Sabine Kriebel, is an allegory for the consumption and production of capital, power, and subjugation. Heartfield inherits Daumier's legacy and continues this leftist tradition of mass media caricature, which is evident in this montage about Hitler, who campaigned as the candidate for the NSDAP (German National Socialist Party) in the presidential election in 1932, but lost. Heartfield, like Daumier, used modern media (lithographic reproduction in Daumier's case) adapted to emergent mass media forms to poke fun at power. A Daumier lithograph hung in Heartfield's Berlin apartment and the collector Eduard Fuchs, whom Heartfield credits with making Daumier known in Germany, was a close friend of his and of his father's.
Offset - Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles