05 July 2011
On display now by: Escher in Het Paleis, Lange Voorhout, 74; Den Haag
Much of Escher’s work revolves around eternity (time) and infinity (space). To express these concepts he used metamorphosis, a constant changing of shape. His first experiment in this area in 1937 resulted in METAMORPHOSIS I and two years later he created a larger work, almost four metres wide (METAMORPHOSIS II). Both are on display in Room 9. In 1967 the Art Department of the Dutch Royal Post (P.T.T.) commissioned Escher to extend the four-metre work to 7 metres.*
The circular arrangement of METAMORPHOSIS III in room 11 of the museum is in the spirit of the artist. Now beginning and end virtually coincide, reproducing Escher’s linkage of eternity and infinity: time and space run parallel in an unending circle. The eye constantly encounters new elements. The narrative emerges both from the form – from salamander to hexagon – and from free association – insects crawl from the honeycomb and take flight, changing into fish as they go. Escher’s mastery of technique enables him to create clouds or even fragile bee wings. Escher depicts Atrani, a small town on the Italian coast, in all three METAMORPHOSES. He described the process as follows: “Out of the blocks there emerges a town on the edge of the sea. The tower standing in the water is also part of a chess game, where the black and white squares of the board bring us back to the letters of the word Metamorphosis, which is where the story began”.
Escher worked for over six months on the enlargement of the work to seven metres. He then printed it, as always, using an egg spoon! Here and there he made small additions by hand: a single stripe was drawn in green pencil on the left side of some of the salamanders. Because beginning and end are identical, it doesn’t matter where the viewer starts to ‘read’ this pictorial narrative full of surprising changes.
* The Dutch Royal Post enlarged this enormous woodcut photographically, then it was painted onto linen, resulting in a work with a total length of 42 metres. The work was on display for many years in the hall of the main Post Office on Kerkplein in The Hague. It has now been moved to Schiphol Airport.