In the context of our new exhibition on David Umemoto, the new works on display in the coming months are focusing on architecture. One of the woodcuts which can be seen now is that of the St. Nicholas Church in Ghent, a print that Escher made during a summer on the West Flanders coast.
Between 1946 and 1951 Escher experimented several times with the mezzotint technique. He was fascinated by the extremely subtle gradiations of light and dark that can be achieved in it. Even before the war, he made the first plans for creating his own works. He wasn't proficient in this technique and he sought advice from fellow artists such as Jan Poortenaar and W.G. Hofker on how to handle it. Dusk (Rome), from May 1946, is his first mezzotint and Plane Filling I, from March 1951, his last. It stopped at a total of 8 mezzotints. Although he was a patient man, the technique turned out to be too laborious and time-consuming for Escher. The most striking print of the series is Eye.
"The fascinating OMG moment." This is the name that former curator Micky Piller gave to the moment in which a spectator looks upon Escher's lithograph Waterfall for the second time, during a broadcast of VPRO radio show OVT (see end of page, only available in Dutch). Water falling down from a platform: this observation is made easily when looking at the print for the first time. But when looking a second time, there is this moment. That moment in which the brain goes into shock and can not comprehend what the eyes are seeing. The water is flowing upstream. The water is flowing upstream? Waterfall is the work with which Escher fools his viewers in the most direct way.
M.C. Escher loved playing chess. The strategic board game was a pleasant form of entertainment for him. He was not only a member of several chess clubs in his life, but during his many boat trips it was also a nice way to pass the time. His love for this black and white board game is also reflected in his art.
For commercial assignments, Escher almost always chose subjects and designs that he had tried before. Commissions were necessary, they rarely inspired him. That wasn't a real problem though. Clients chose Escher, because they knew his work and wanted to see certain aspects return in the final result. The commission that Escher received in the summer of 1956 was a little different. In September he made a New Year's card for the P.T.T., for which he had drawn the motif shortly before in one of his notebooks with tessellations. The design with the winged envelopes is clearly meant for the client. For his tessellations, Escher always used living objects, such as birds, fish, insects and other critters. In that sense, the envelope was an anomaly. But by giving them wings, they still are animal-like in some sense.
September 1919 was a life changing month for Maurits Escher. His first lessons in architecture at the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem started on 6 September and on 17 September he moved to this city. In Haarlem the artist in him awoke, although architecture proved to be a false start. The choice for architecture was mainly inspired by his father, who saw his son as a future architect.
The first Saturday of September is World Beard Day. We of course celebrate this day through M.C. Escher, a fanatic owner of the beard. Maybe even a hipster, long before the word was invented. He was in his early twenties when his characteristic silhouette started to take shape: a tall skinny man with a big nose, somewhat messy hair and always in a suit. And thus crowned with a pointy beard that made his appearance even more refined.
On August 23, 1996, the composer Jurriaan Andriessen, a descendant of a well-known family of artists, died. He wrote a large and varied oeuvre with symphonies and other orchestral works, an opera, ballet, church and chamber music and also film music. A good example of his versatility is the symphony Time Spirit, in which works by Escher play a central role.
Today is International Left Handers Day. A day on which M.C. Escher, as a left-handed person, cannot be left unmentioned. This event was created to draw attention to the inconveniences that left-handed people encounter. The first was on August 13, 1976. On a Friday, which was a conscious choice. Escher was vigorously corrected at school and was forced to write and draw right-handed. A normal practice at the time. Although those corrections hardly had any effect, he later learnt to use his right hand just as good as his left one. Being ambidextrous brought him an advantage in his artistry.
For Escher and his sons George and Arthur, 1930 was a year of illness: the sons got pneumonia, an ear infection and whooping cough and he himself suffered from intestinal and electoral pains. In addition, he hardly sold anything and there were no assignments for new work.
Castrovalva (1930) and Castle in the Air (1928) could be seen in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in April, during the group exhibition from artists' association St. Lucas, which celebrated its 50th anniversary. As a basis for work trips for Escher, but especially for relaxation, the family spent a large part of the summer in Switzerland.