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Escher today

Here we tap into dates from M.C. Eschers life and work, jumping through time but always in the now. All year round you can enjoy background stories, anecdotes and trivia about this fascinating artist.

Flying fish, birds and boats in Haarlem

Of all the themes and subjects on which Escher had thrown himself during his career, the one he was most drawn to was the regular division of the plane. He has done countless experiments to examine the many ways in which a plane could be filled with patterns of geometric shapes. In this proces, and this embodies Eschers great strength, he managed to bend these geometric shapes into recognisable forms. Crudely at first but as he got more skillful at it, the fishes, birds, lizards, beetles, butterflies, horses and other animals and shapes kept getting more refined. The drawings were a form of research but he also drew ideas from them for new work or for commercial assignments. In January 1962 he made four drawings, two of them we show here, of which he immediately knew what he wanted to use them for.

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Magic Mirror

The liberation of May 1945 was liberating for all Dutch people who suffered under five years of Nazi reign. The euphoria was enormous, also with Maurits Escher. Completely opposed to his reserved nature, he was cheering aloud on the 'Brink' on May 7 where thousands of citizens of his residence Baarn had gathered. The liberation was the start of a huge catch-up race, starving as he and Jetta were after years without art, going out and enjoying good food. At first, working wasn't easy.

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The ‘Kultuurkamer’

Escher didn't fill the page for the first week of January 1942 with appointments but with a list. He was often writing lists in his diary, from shopping lists and train times to lists of sold work and the weight of himself and his family, but this was a very special list. It contained the names of the artists who had joined the 'Kultuurkamer', which had started on November 25, 1941. In Germany itself, the 'Reichskulturkammer' was founded on 22 September 1933 by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The Dutch variant also was established to serve the occupier and his Nazi ideology. Keywords were nationalism, solidarity with country and people, historical awareness, banishing 'degenerate, unhealthy, unnatural creativity' and a 'positive-Germanic attitude'. Every artist who wanted to exhibit, publish or make music had to be a member. Jews were excluded. Whoever became a member, formally agreed with the politics of the occupier.

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Escher in 2018

We’ve reached the end of 2018. On Facebook and here, on Escher today, every week we brought you a story about the life and work of M.C. Escher. All the images we used are collected in this video. We thank everyone for your attention this year and we will keep providing you with stories in 2019!

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Pentedatillo

In the autumn and winter of 1930-1931 Escher worked out the sketches and photographs he had made during the spring trip through the Italian provinces of Campanile and Calabria, together with his friends Giuseppe Haas-Triverio, Roberto Schiess and Jean Roussett. The woodcuts and lithographs that he made bear the poetic names of the places he had visited: Palizzi, Morano, Pentedatillo, Stilo, Scilla, Tropea, Santa Severina, Rocco Imperiale, Rossano.

He was so impressed by the mountain village of Pentedatillo that he made two woodcuts and a lithograph.

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Three Worlds

For many, Escher is the master of illusions. A wizard on paper who tricks you with his impossible constructions and wondrous metamorphoses. What he creates can not exist. Even if you see it with your own eyes. Yet that is not always the case. Escher was indeed fascinated by the illusions that the flat surface could evoke, but sometimes he just wanted to show the beauty in reality. Three Worlds is one of the best examples of this.

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The Worlds of M.C. Escher

Carrying the same title as was used for the retrospective exhibition in 1968, on 23 November 1971 the book 'De werelden van M.C. Escher' (The Worlds of M.C. Escher) was launched in the 'Gemeentemuseum' in The Hague. On 10 December, the artist himself received the first copy in the 'Rosa Spier Huis' (retirement home for Dutch artists) in Laren. Before doing so, it was clear that the book would be a huge success. The Committee for the Collective Propaganda of the Dutch book (CPNB) had proclaimed it the 'Book of the Month'. Publisher Meulenhoff initially aimed at forty thousand copies, but soon increased the circulation to fifty thousand. Yet even those were already sold out before the book was available in the bookstore. Once again the number of copies was increased, this time to seventy-five thousand, but within a month these were all sold too. For an introduction price of ƒ 12.50, buyers received a book with 5 introductions, a bibliography, an overview of Escher's main exhibitions and lectures, and 270 images (including 8 in color) with captions. A bargain.

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Gerd Arntz

On 4 December 1988 the graphic designer Gerd Arntz passed away. He was one of Escher's best friends. With his characteristic style as a graphic artist, Arntz was an outsider among his colleagues. Just like Escher was. Both 'outsiders' appreciated each other's work. The two corresponded for years in which they exchanged experiences and ideas and commented on each other's work. They also met at their respective homes and Arntz continued to visit Escher in the 'Rosa Spier Huis' (retirement home for Dutch artists), where Escher died in 1972.

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Oulipo

On November 24, 1960, the writer's workshop Oulipo was founded. It stands for 'Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle' or the 'Workplace for Possible Literature'. It is a loosely formed group of French-speaking writers and mathematicians who produce literary works that are subject to certain conditions or restrictions. The use of this type of restriction was not new (writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, James Joyce, Ferdinand de Saussure and Gertrude Stein already worked with it), but it is the first time that it has been done in an organized manner.

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Covered alley in Atrani

Escher was crazy about the jagged and vertical landscapes he encountered in Abruzzo and Calabria, on the Amalfi coast, on Sicily and on the French island of Corsica. He has traversed these areas for many years in a variety of ways. With his sketchpad in hand, in knickerbockers and wearing coarse argyle socks in sturdy walking shoes he climbed the Corsican peaks, descended to the coastline of Amalfi, walked through the rugged mountains in Abruzzo and Calabria and battled the heat of Sicily. But there was one place where he kept returning to: Atrani.

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More Escher today

Le Canard Gallery

From November 14 to December 14, 1950 Escher had an exhibition in the Amsterdam gallery Le Canard. He exhibited there together with his fellow graphic artist Harry van Kruiningen. The invitation card featured a vignette with little devils, a wood engraving that Escher had made especially for the exhibition. He…...
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Depth

Last week I wrote that Escher hasn't been positively regarded by art critics for years. But in the end he himself was his greatest critic. There are certainly exceptions, but often he was dissatisfied with his latest creation. This varied from 'this is just not good enough' and 'there should…...
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Escher versus art criticism

Nowadays M.C. Escher may be very popular with both the general public and art critics, but this was certainly not always the case. He has been ignored for years by many art lovers and critics. His work was dismissed as being decorative and was at most technically well made. Contentwise…...
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