Escher was first and foremost a graphic designer. That said, he also produced a variety of designs for art in public spaces. For example, he designed some magnificent tiled pillars with regular tessellations for two schools. The pillars were recently restored and relocated, and now for the first time the original tiles can be seen in Escher in Het Paleis!
In an article in the Volkskrant, dating 23 February, Escher is subject to some very unfortunate framing. This gives rise to the impression of Escher having been a collaborationist, and that is unwarranted. Escher was not a Nazi sympathizer. Our curator Dunja Nadjézjda Hak explains.
Escher’s work is known for such things as his optical illusions and his playing with perspective. He had an aptitude for rendering day-to-day subjects unfamiliar by means of the viewpoint he took or the cutout he made. The ideal nourishment for this was photography, which Escher took up when he was 15 years old.
On 3 February our new exhibition opened: Escher, close up. Escher was a keen photographer and for the first time his photo archive is on show. It gives us a new perspective on the artist and his work. How did this exhibition come about?
During the 17th century it became fashionable among the elite to create ‘cabinets of curiosities’. Escher had such a room too, albeit a small 20th-century one. It doesn’t exist anymore, but fortunately we still have the photos.
The work of all great masters is revered, copied and parodied, but no other artist has had his or her work feature so prolifically in tattoos as Escher. The Dutch grandmaster of graphic art is also the king of body art.
'Doesn’t it make you dizzy?’ ‘That’s the whole point!’
As one of my colleagues said in an e-mail: ‘Hi everyone, the holidays are now over. Regular life is resuming. And the same applies to meetings.’ The holidays are over. And you may have just returned from a far-flung luxury flight to a tropical location.
Just imagine. You’re an artist, creating your own work with passion and dedication. You slave away, struggling to demonstrate your ideas. You long, pine for recognition. You get it. Finally, en masse. And then… Much of the appreciation comes from a public you have nothing in common with. You don’t understand anything about.
Summer! Time to enjoy the sun and laze around on the beach. At Escher in Het Paleis we are full of summer cheer. During the holiday period we will be showing how Escher spent his holidays. For the first time photos of his beach holidays will be on display along with beach fashion from the start of the previous century.
‘I believe that no music moves me as much...’,
Escher wrote of Bach’s compositions to a friend on his 22nd birthday. In the previous story I wrote about Escher’s love of music. The current issue will be looking specifically at his partiality for one particular composer: Johann Sebastian Bach.
'The organ grew considerably; the pipes stretched from the heavens to the earth, and the young man felt such a powerful wind that he rose from the stones and soared into the air, between the swaying columns.'
This quote stems from a letter Escher wrote to his friend Jan in 1920. At this point he was 22 and was lodging in Haarlem. The young man is Escher himself. The emotions that the organ music in the Saint Bavo Church aroused in him were so intense that he felt as though he was having an out-of-body experience and the world around him was changing.
Often, it’s the highlights within an artist’s oeuvre that attract most attention. Which is logical, as they are representative of the artist at his very best, having found his style and surpassing his early work. But does this imply that his early work is unexciting? Quite the contrary. Escher’s early works exude something of the artist he will go on to become in due course.
‘I speak about it with all kinds of people, but only a seasoned cargo boat passenger can understand what I’m talking about. And you never (or very rarely) come across such people on land.’
Escher wrote this to his son Arthur. Escher was yearning for the sea. He had a profound love of the sea and everything associated with it.
‘And so, with the supremely ironical connection to the tradition of our "forefathers", an entirely new phenomenon came into being.’
In a previous story I wrote about how Escher drew inspiration from the late mediaeval artist Hieronymus Bosch; this time the inspiration stems from the Golden Age. More specifically: emblemata. These ‘images with adages' are what led indirectly to his recognition as an artist.
Art lovers have been waiting for years. Dates are being selected and tickets ordered. People are eagerly awaiting a retrospective exhibition and numerous festivities. Late medieval painter Jheronimus Bosch died 500 years ago, and that is being commemorated on a grand scale in 2016. But what does Jheronimus Bosch’s work have to do with Escher? More than you think!
It goes without saying that Escher lives on in his work, as befits a good artist. Yet there's more, much more. There's an archive. A treasure trove of family photos, travel journals, letters and diaries.
A hand is shown in minute detail. The hand is holding a sphere. A spherical mirror, showing the reflection of an artist: Maurits Cornelis Escher, one of the world’s most renowned graphic artists. His playful view on perspective, space and reality fascinates people around the world. And it’s M.C. Escher’s oeuvre that I have the privilege of curating. Two weeks ago, I was appointed as a curator at Escher in Het Paleis in the Hague. And I love it!