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 The Palace. 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 The Palace 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 work. This was the case recently, when we were able to buy a wonderful, previously unknown, composition on paper that Escher made in March 1924.
M.C. Escher decided at a young age that he wanted to become a printmaker, 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 Cornelis Escher.
Even though Escher produced more than 650 prints of Day and night, Sky and water I is undoubtedly his most famous work and the one that is most widely known to the general public. This square woodcut - depicting fish transforming into birds - can be seen on posters, mug, bedspreads and sometimes even in advertising campaigns.
Reflection is a recurring theme in the work of Maurits 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 during his career. Escher used ordinary mirrors, but Escher also used other reflective surfaces.
It won’t have escaped your attention: 2014 was devoted to A SENSE OF WONDER, both in Escher in The Palace 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's work.
“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 M.C. Escher is that of perpetual motion: motion that continues indefinitely, generated and maintained by its own momentum. As we have seen in previous stories, Escher was intrigued by the notion of perpetual motion and explored different ways of depicting it in his work.
Anyone seeing Curl-up, as Wentelteefje is commonly called in English, is surprised at all the bizarre details. Escher always said that he was good at copying, a claim that was met with a good deal of mirth; after all, how does this explain all his fantastical creations?
Whenever the name Escher is mentioned, the first thing that comes 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.
The world-famous print Relativity and the lesser known Gravity have more in common than it seems. 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. For Escher the connection is obvious.
Escher very cleverly toys with our perceptions. He uses a staircase as the connecting element, in which the undersides have not been cut away. The staircase is connected to the outside world, the world outside the print, through pseudo-Romanesque passageways. By cunningly bringing together architectural elements with which we are all familiar, Escher prompts us to unquestioningly accept the impossible constructions of these prints. Presumably, we do not even notice them at first.
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.
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, and experimenting with 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. The different image that caught your eye continues to play on your mind and leaves you wondering, “What was it that I saw?”
This month, I will be celebrating my eleventh year as curator at Escher in The Palace. Over the years, I have slowly but surely become attached to Escher's work, but also to Escher as a person. Luckily his image has been featured on many of his own prints: between 1917 and 1950, Escher created nothing less than 12 self-portraits!
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. After studying printmaking in Haarlem, Escher travelled to Andalusia in 1922. He returned in 1936, this time with his wife Jetta. On both occasions Escher copied the tessellations on walls and alcoves, the second time assisted by Jetta.
While still a student at the Haarlem School of Architecture And Decorative Arts, Escher received a commission from his friend Aad 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 friend Jan. Fiet and Aad resided in Huis ter Heide and Escher stayed with the couple on a number of occasions. It is believed that this close friendship prompted Escher to create woodcuts of the lightly ironic texts of Aad.
In his lifetime, M.C. Escher produced more than 400 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, 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. They regard Escher as the undisputed master of tessellated art, who used...
In the works of M.C. Escher, movement plays an important role in a number of different ways. For example, the perpetual motion: the infinite cycle of movement. And then, to my amazement, I slowly discovered another type of movement. The figurative movement that goes on inside your head as you try to unravel and make sense of a special work of art. In the case of Other world, you will be amazed at what you can see if you take the time and the effort to look closely at the work. We are looking into space. That much is clear. But how exactly are we looking at this space?
"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. In June 1928, Escher travelled to the French island with his father-in-law Arturo Umiker.
I am writing this story in late November. 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. The beautiful colours and the bare branches demonstrate just how good an observer Escher is.
M.C. 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. They were Jan van der Does de Willebois and older sister Fiet, Bas Kist, Roosje Ingen Housz and Conny Umbgrove.
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 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 Giulietta 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.
While living in Italy, Escher spent virtually every spring undertaking long journeys on foot through a region of Italy. Walking in the mountains was much more dangerous than it is now. Sometimes he was on his own and sometimes with friends. They travelled as gentlemen, occasionally in the accompany of a man with a mule.
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. In an interview in 1968, Escher describes his school period as the 'Hell of Arnhem'. Escher wandered a lot in the surrounding area. During his walks, he encountered the railway bridge across the Rhine.
After completing his studies to become a printmaker 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, 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 Kist, he remarked that he needed these breaks to recover from his annual exertions.