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Saturday Art: Hurray, the Butter is Gone!

Hurray, the Butter is Gone!

Hi, Karin here. I’ve been a regular at the crack den for years, and Ruth Calvo invited me to do Saturday morning art posts at FDL. I’ve decided to start out with a work of political art, a photomontage from 1935 Germany.

The artist, John Heartfield, was born Helmut Herzfeld, but Anglicized his name as a protest against German ultranationalism. Photomontage was a popular form at that time, and Heartfield was part of the Berlin Dada group which also included artists like George Grosz and Hannah Hoch, with Heartfield’s work being perhaps the most overtly political. My family background is German/Austrian, and my father had a book of Heartfield’s art in our house, so I’ve always been fascinated by it. . . .

This particular piece, titled “Hurrah, die Butter ist Alle!” is a satirical statement on the folly of producing weapons instead of food- a illustration of the “guns vs. butter” argument taken to its absurd extreme. It was created a couple of years after Hitler had come into power and Germany had begun a big rearmament program, despite the fact that the country had suffered from a devastating Depression and many people were starving. The caption at the bottom of the picture is a quote from a Herman Goering speech. Translated into English it says “”Iron has always made a nation strong, butter and lard have only made the people fat”.

This work was the inspiration for a song by Siouxsie and the Banshees, recorded in English as Metal Postcard and in German as Mittageisen (Noon Iron, which is a play on the German word for noontime meal).

I like the subversive use of the swastika symbol worked into the wallpaper, and the way the baby is chewing on a very Teutonic-looking axe. We live in a very cynical era, but I think that 1930’s Berlin could give us a run for our money. This is actually one of Heartfield’s milder works, but I can’t think of too many artists today whose political statements are this harsh, maybe Ted Rall? What do you think?

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I am a baby boomer, born, raised and still living in New Jersey. I have been a waitress, programer/systems analyst & paralegal, among other jobs.
Interests: art, music, politics, reading, cooking.