Revolutionary Beauty (Hardcover)

The Radical Photomontages of John Heartfield

By Sabine T. Kriebel

University of California Press, 9780520276185, 352pp.

Publication Date: February 21, 2014

List Price: 65.00*
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Revolutionary Beauty offers the first sustained study of the German artist John Heartfield's groundbreaking political photomontages, published in the left-wing weekly Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) during the 1930s. Sabine T. Kriebel foregrounds the critical artistic practices with which Heartfield directly confronted the turbulent, ideologically charged currents of interwar Europe, exposing the cultural politics of the crucial historical moment that witnessed the consolidation of National Socialism. In this period of radicalization and mass mobilization, the medium of photomontage—the cut-and-paste assemblage of photograph and text—offered a way to deconstruct the visual world and galvanize beholders on a mass scale.

Kriebel transforms our understandings of montage as a quintessentially modern practice. Central to that reconceptualization is suture, a concept integral to film theory but recruited in this book to explore the psychic operations of Heartfield’s seamlessly welded AIZ photomontages. Revolutionary Beauty proposes that the language of sutured illusionism constitutes one of the most important and overlooked critiques of modern media, wherein a radical reassessment resides in suture. Scholars of photography, modern and contemporary art history, media studies, and European history will doubtlessly embrace this book. 

About the Author

Sabine Kriebel is Lecturer (permanent), Modern and Contemporary Art, at University College Cork, Republic of Ireland. She completed her PhD in 2003 at UC Berkeley.

Praise For Revolutionary Beauty: The Radical Photomontages of John Heartfield

"John Heartfield (1891–1968) was one of the most significant visual artists of the twentieth century. Sabine T. Kriebel’s sophisticated study contributes enormously to our understanding of how and why."

— Peter Chametzky

“Kriebel is intently concerned with the poetics of the photographic image, but this should not imply that her focus is only on the immanent qualities of Heartfield’s montages. There is also a rigorous interrogation of the political and material stakes for photography and a keen alertness to the importance of laughter and the comic at the root of these works. The challenges of writing about these alone are considerable and Kriebel’s long-awaited book admirably rises to the task.”

— Debbie Lewer

Revolutionary Beauty covers an extraordinary amount of ground in order to situate Heartfield as an historical producer... This remarkable amalgamation of broadly historicizing and deeply analytical reconsiderations of relatively iconic things is the great strength of this book."

— James A. van Dyke