Micky Piller has studied art history in Gent, with a focus on Flemish art from the 12th to 17th century. She graduated in theory formation on Marcel Duchamp.
After graduating she became a journalist and art critic at Haagse Post, NRC Handelsblad and Het Financieele Dagblad. She wrote about artists, museums and corporate art collections at Gasunie, ABN and Peter Stuyvesant. She was also an acquisition advisor for Bouwfonds Kunststichting, an important Dutch corporate art collection. In 2002 she became the first curator at Escher in Het Paleis. She remained there until her retirement in 2015.
She was responsible for some groundbreaking publications on Escher’s life and work, among which: O Mundo Màgico de Escher for the large Brazilian exhibition in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (2010-11); Escher en de schatten uit de Islam, for the eponymous exhibition at Escher in Het Paleis and the Tropeninstituut in Amsterdam (2013); The Amazing World of M.C. Escher, for the eponymous exhibition at The National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, de Dulwich Gallery in Londen and the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl (2015-16).
I have written in the past of the joys of being the curator of a museum dedicated to the work of M. C. Escher. I am presented with intriguing questions that would never have occurred to me, which set me thinking about his work. People offer us things and occasionally we have an unexpected opportunity to acquire a new exhibit. This was the case recently, when we were able to buy a wonderful, previously unknown, composition on paper that Escher did in March 1924.
Graphic designers like to disseminate their work rather than sell it to a single art lover. M.C. Escher decided from a young age that he wanted to become a graphic designer, rather than a painter or sculptor. By the end of his career, he had produced 449 prints. Of these, there are around five times more woodcuts and wood engravings than lithographs.
Have you ever found yourself trapped inside a dream, wandering aimlessly around a staircase, or unable to find your way out of a building? Followers of Freud and other experts in the human psyche might well be able to shed light on those dreams for you. But there is only one person who can actually show you what such a dream feels like: that one person is Maurits C. Escher.
Reflection is a recurring theme in the work of Maurits C. Escher. This in itself is not that surprising. Most artists produce a self-portrait at some point. Escher carved his first self-portrait while he was still living in Arnhem and he continued to create successive self-portraits at regular intervals until 1935.
It won’t have escaped your attention: 2014 was devoted to A SENSE OF WONDER, both in Escher in Het Paleis and therefore also in this concluding story. The vast majority of our visitors believe that a sense of wonder is important when viewing the work of M.C. Escher. The technical skill that is required to capture the seemingly impossible is truly staggering to all those who come into contact with Escher
“If we divide the picture vertically into three strips, the two extreme parts are both acceptable as realities, but in other respects each other's inversion. In the central strip, things are uncertain and can be seen in two different ways: a floor is also a ceiling; an interior is also an exterior; convex is concave at the same time. "
One of the main themes in the work of Maurits C. Escher is that of perpetual motion: motion that continues indefinitely, generated and maintained by its own momentum. (In other words, the kind of engine we need in the 21st century!) As we have seen in previous Eschers of the Month, Escher was intrigued by the notion of perpetual motion and explored different ways of depicting it in his work.
Time and again people ask me whether I find it a chore having to work with such dry work as the prints of Maurits C. Escher. After all, they add, it's so mathematical, and sometimes they even maintain that it has very little to do with art, being instead the product of mathematical formulas. This prejudice is the tragedy of Escher's prints.
Whenever the name "Escher" is mentioned, the first thing that springs to mind is optical illusion. We have lost count of the number of visitors who have said to us: “As a teenager, I used to spend hours staring at those Escher prints in an effort to work out HOW he fooled me.” The visual tricks that he played on us continue to amaze us to this day.
At first sight it seems unlikely that there might be a connection between this typical Escher polyhedral star and his Relativity print, which depicts figures walking up and down a loop of stairs. Of course for Escher the connection is obvious. Other World, Up and Down and Relativity, which were all discussed in a previous story, all belong in the relativity group as works in which Escher explores the possibility of combining different sources of gravity and perspectives within the same print.
In Relativity I, I examined the changing perspectives that Escher applied in a series of prints, which create the impression that you need to rotate these works to uncover all their possibilities. I noted that Escher himself referred to this print, Relativity, “as a study into the “relativity of the function of the flat.”
But he did not elaborate further. In M.C. Escher Grafiek en Tekeningen, published in 1959, he discussed a number of prints in-depth.
The prints of M.C. Escher can be classified in several different ways. For instance, you could group together works that feature never-ending cycles, reflections, or metamorphoses. Or you could categorise them on the basis of birds, reptiles, or stars and planetary tessellations. Escher reckons that his 1953 woodcut, Relativity, forms part of a series in which he stretches the boundaries between the flat image and the three-dimensional plane.
People tend to assume that M.C.Escher’s early prints feature scenes inspired by specific places in Italy. But this is not always the case. From 1925 to 1928 we see Escher discovering his métier. We see him experimenting and considering all kinds of possibilities. He tackles different subjects and explores different ways of portraying them.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re walking along a familiar shopping street when something suddenly catches your attention in a shop window. For a moment you don’t recognise the scene reflected back to you and it leaves you feeling slightly disoriented. The unfamiliar aspect of an otherwise familiar scene turns your day upside down.
This month, I will be celebrating my eleventh year as curator at Escher in Het Paleis. Over the years, I have slowly but surely become attached to his work. I've discovered just how interrelated his works are and, thanks to a growing number of people who have been willing to share their knowledge with me, I have unearthed new facts and sometimes even unknown works.
Whenever you read about the work of M.C. Escher, sooner or later the author always mentions how meticulously he prepared his prints, woodcuts lithographs. He did dozens of drawings as studies before embarking on the final version. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, whose collection we display, possesses a large number of preliminary pencil studies of Waterfall, a lithograph print completed in 1961.
Between July and November 2013, Escher in Het Paleis hosted the exhibtion 'Escher and treasures from the Islam'. This exhibition has shown how M.C. Escher was influenced by the tessellations (repeating shapes or patterns) he saw on the walls of the Alhambra, the Moorish palace in Granada, and the Mezquita, a mosque in Córdoba, both in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia.
While still a student at the Haarlem School of Architecture And Decorative Arts, Escher received a commission from his friend Aad (Adriaan) van Stolk. Van Stolk was fifteen years older than Escher. They met in 1919 when Van Stolk married Escher's friend Fiet van der Does de Willebois, the sister of his best friend Jan.
In his lifetime, M.C. Escher produced more than four hundred prints. In a number of these works, the reptile - alongside the bird and the fish - features prominently. After incorporating his first tessellation in the woodcut Metamorphosis I in May 1937, as we saw earlier, Escher created Development I. It is an intriguing print in which a number of things happen.
Broadly speaking, admirers of the work of M.C. Escher can be divided into three groups: the first and most obvious group comprises those who enjoy optical illusions; the second group consists of mathematicians, or people who in one way or another deal with mathematics in their daily lives.
In the works of M.C. Escher, movement plays an important role in a number of different ways. In Bonifacio and in Castrovalva, I wrote about the movement that the viewer's eyes make, or are forced to make, when looking at some of Escher's prints. Secondly, Escher depicts movement through changes in shape, for example in the three Metamorphoses which he created between 1937 and 1969.
"During my wanderings, everything around me seems real. But later, when I reconstruct the images in my mind's eye, I realise that it was like a dream; when I think back now to what I encountered in Corsica that spring, I recall a vivid sound, a smell, a mood and I am overwhelmed by emotion."
These words were penned by Escher in 1928 to his lifelong friend Bas Kist, whom he met at school and who subsequently became a lawyer in Amsterdam.
I am writing this story in late November. The weather this weekend was decidedly bleak. Autumn was slow to arrive this year. The leaves were late changing colour and it took longer to turn cold. Now that the rain and storms have arrived, temperatures have dropped. Escher's print Puddle captures this time of year perfectly.
As we have mentioned before, Mauk Escher did not have happy memories of his high school days in Arnhem. With the exception of a few teachers, such as his arts teacher, he disliked school intensely. Escher did however have a group of friends at school, who helped him through this difficult time.
If you perceive the world as a never-ending story with a rich variety of repetitive patterns, then tessellation is the ideal pictorial device to apply. Tessellations are patterns of identical shapes that seamlessly interlock and can be repeated endlessly.
"I'm thinking about a very attractive commission which the Post Office might offer me."
These words were penned by Escher in June 1967 in a letter to his eldest son George in Canada. After a protracted period of uncertainty, he was finally granted the assignment in early 1968. During the interim period, he had already been experimenting with various motifs.
The Collegiata di Santa Maria Maddalena, the church in the small Italian seaside resort of Atrani is probably one of the most iconic churches to feature in the work of M.C. Escher. This lithograph itself may not be as well known, but the building with the distinctive bell tower has gained world-wide fame because of the three Metamorphoses.
Besides selling his prints, Escher made a living from undertaking commissions. Examples include his pattern designs for a glass ceiling at the Philips lighting factory, wooden panels for the City Hall in Leiden and for a tiled façade on a high school in The Hague. He often applied tessellations when working on such commissions. The confectionery tin designed by Escher in 1962/3 is no exception
The winter of 1935/ 1936 was a dark period in Escher's life. In the spring of 1935, his second son Arthur had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. George, Escher's eldest son, was in equally poor health. Without too much deliberation, a decision is made: "Leave Rome. The clean mountain air will do the boys good."
On 12 June 1924, Maurits Cornelis Escher marries Giuliaetta Umiker, given name Jetta, in the Italian seaside town of Viareggio, not far from Pisa. Four days later, on 16 June, at the urgent request of Jetta, a convalidation ceremony or "blessing of the marriage" was held in a room of a Catholic school. Two Italian nuns acted as witnesses.
Last week, we were blessed with a sudden burst of hot weather. Everybody ventured outside. Sidewalk cafés were filled to capacity, and TV weather presenters treated viewers to a host of sunny weather pictures. Everyone dreams of spring and warm weather. While living in Italy, Escher spent virtually every spring undertaking long journeys on foot through a region of Italy.
On 25 November 1950, L.C. Kalff MSc (Eng), Director of Artistic Affairs, dictated the following letter: ‘Dear Escher, Thirty-three years ago, we produced countless drawings together for the Delftsche Studenten Almanak. Although I have not had the pleasure of working with you since those early days, I have been following your Metamorphosis from aspiring architect to graphic designer with great interest. I now have a proposal to make, which I hope will be of interest to you...'
Because of Escher’s father’s job as a civil engineer, the Escher family moved to the city of Arnhem in 1903, and took up residence at Utrechtsestraat 19. In 1912, Mauk entered the Lorentz HBS in the Schoolstraat. HBS schools were intended for upper middle class children. It would have taken him around twenty minutes to reach the school on foot.
After completing his graphic design studies in Haarlem in 1922, the young Escher embarks on his second trip to Italy. The previous year, his parents had taken him to Southern France, from where they travelled on to Florence. On 5 April 1922, Escher leaves Arnhem for Florence, accompanied by his closest friends, Jan van der Does de Willebois and Bas Kist.
Hand with Reflecting Sphere is one of Escher's most famous works. This lithograph, first printed in 1935, is also known as Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror. At this festive time of year, it seemed befitting to focus the spotlight on this print.
Escher not only observed the countryside, he was also a keen walker. When he first arrived in Italy, Escher spent every spring undertaking long journeys through different parts of the country. In a letter to his friend Bas, he remarked that he needed these breaks to recover from his annual exertions.