Today is Museumnight Kids. With one ticket, children can go to over 20 locations in The Hague and Voorburg. Our museum is participating as well, naturally. The link between children and Escher is very clear. The graphic artist was able to look at the world with a curious eye and he managed to retain the playfulness of children in his magical worlds. He also looked full of wonder towards nature. For him, a mountain landscape, deciduous forest or summery lawn was never just a mountain landscape, deciduous forest or summery lawn. He saw details that no one else saw and he was able to enjoy to the fullest what nature had to offer him.
In March 1951 Escher made a print with the deceptively simple name Plane Filling I. I say 'deceptively simple', because at that moment he had been a graphic artist for thirty years and had already made countless tessellations. The principle of the regular division of the plane formed the core of his artistry, the subject to which he always kept returning. Why then suddenly a work that seems to suggest it is the first time he makes such a thing?
On March 1, 1958, Giacomo Balla died, one of the most important artists of Futurism. Escher probably didn't know him personally, but he was familiar with his work. There are a number of surprising similarities between the futurist Balla and the early work of the graphic artist Escher. More about that later.
On 20 February 1941 Maurits and Jetta moved with their three children to the Nicolaas Beetslaan in Baarn. Since 1925 the couple had lived abroad. The first years in Rome, where George and Arnold were born. In the summer of 1935 they moved to the Swiss town Château-d'Oex and in 1937 they moved again. Now to Ukkel, a suburb of Brussels. In 1938 Jan was born there, son number three. After a more or less forced departure from Rome, due to the rise of fascism and the health of his sons, and the flight for the cold and the isolation in Switzerland, Ukkel seemed like a safe haven. But due to the arrival of the war and the death of his parents, in 1939 and 1940, Escher was forced to reconsider his living situation. After the German invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium in May 1940, he sensed a patriotic feeling within himself. The couple De Kat, whom he and Jetta had befriended, had already moved to the Dutch town Overveen and Escher planned to follow that example. In addition, the inheritance of his parents mainly consisted of Dutch property. The family had to live on part of the rental income. The financial traffic from the Netherlands to Belgium was difficult, if not impossible.
On April 22, 1932, Escher and his friend Giuseppe Haas-Triverio left for Sicily for a month, an island new to both of them. They limited themselves to the northern part, which they reached from Naples with the steamship Florio. The number of places visited during the month that followed was impressive: the port city of Palermo with it's university, the Saracen town of Corleone, Cefalù, with its famous cathedral, the Greek town of Tindari, the seaside resort of Milazzo, the island of Lipari, the beautifully located town of Taormina, the surroundings of Etna, Giarre, with the traces of the volcanic eruption in 1928, Randazzo, with the houses built out of dark colored lava, the lava formations at Bronte, Cesarò, Roina, Cerami, Nicosia, where the inhabitants speak a Lombard dialect, Sperlinga, Enna, Gangi, Petralia Sottana, Sclafani, Segesta, with the Greek temple and Caltavuturo. In that month he made twenty-three sketches that he worked out in 12 prints in the winter of 1932-1933. Together they give a good impression of the visit to the island that had made such a big impression on him and Haas-Triverio.
In October and November 1954 the first solo exhibition of Escher took place in the United States, in the Whyte Gallery in Washington. The initiative was taken by the American Charles Alldredge, who had become a fan and collector after reading articles about Escher in magazines Time and Life in 1951. The two started a correspondence and Alldredge developed into a sort of manager of Escher's interests in the US . After the successful exhibition in the Whyte Gallery, he became increasingly busy looking after those interests. In 1956 a considerable load was added to that. Alldredge was asked to cooperate in the election campaign of Senator Estes Kefauver who attempted to become the Democratic candidate for the presidential election.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the association for the promotion of graphic arts 'De Grafische', a large exhibition was held in February 1962 in the 'Stedelijk Museum'. Escher participated of course, just like his friend Gerd Arntz and many other graphic colleagues. It was not exactly for the first time that graphic artists exhibited together and under the name of their association, but never so lavishly as for the jubilee exhibition. Under the title 'Print' more than 300 works were on view at the Stedelijk.
Poetry Day, next Thursday 31 January, is the start of Poetry Week in the Netherlands. It's a celebration of poetry in the form of many events that are held in the country. M.C. Escher was not a poet, but he did have a brother who could call himself that. Johan George Escher (1894-1969, usually called George), the eldest son of the second marriage of George Arnold Escher with Sara Adriana Gleichman. He has published two poetry collections. The first one, 'Het bezwaarde hart' (The burdened heart), was published in 1937 by Van Dishoeck. The second, 'Oude en nieuwe gedichten' (Old and new poems), appeared just before his death in 1969. For the debut brother Maurits created the title page.
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.
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.