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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.

Mirrored illusions

In general, mirrors reflect reality, but in the world of art, different laws apply. Certainly in the world of Maurits Cornelis Escher. Here, nothing is what it seems. His prints are instantly recognisable, but the man behind them was something of an enigma. He looks at you in mirror prints such as Hand with Reflecting Sphere or Three Spheres II. Confident, empathic. But also composed and perhaps even a little mocking.

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State of confusion

To create confusion. That was what God had in mind when he made the people who were building a tower to heaven all speak different languages. In no time at all, it was chaos, and the construction was stopped immediately. For if you can no longer talk to each other, how can you continue to build together at such a height?

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Snakes

It was a fact of life for Escher that his health deteriorated during the late 1960s. He struggled with it his entire life, but this particular decade was a succession of good and bad spells. During the good spells, he was alert and active; during the bad ones, poor health dominated his life. In the spring of 1969 he had a good spell again and he filled his time with a number of lectures, produced 40 prints of Day and Night (although he thought that this was a waste of his precious time) and devised and created a new print.
It was working on something new that made him especially happy. In a letter to his son George, he wrote that he was 'wild with excitement' about Snakes. In the winter of 1967/1968, he had extended his Metamorphosis II to Metamorphosis III, but the last new print preceding it originated from autumn 1966. He therefore devoted himself wholeheartedly to this new stream of creativity, despite being afflicted by poor health. The development process took a great deal of energy, and he often had to stop work in order to take a break.

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Flatworms

In December 1958 and January 1959, Escher worked on a new print that he intended to display at an exhibition in Museum Boymans in February. Adopting the group name Vier Grafici (‘Four Graphic Artists’), he was exhibiting with Harry van Kruiningen, Wout van Heusden and Harry Disberg. A company he had been in before. He wrote about the print in a letter to his son George and his wife Corrie:

"After a week of endless dispiration, I again find myself exploring tetrahedral and octahedral space: caves and caverns, wondrous pillars, abysses and vistas, all rigorously four-sided and eight-sided. My plan now is to finally have the cross-eyed flatworm I love swim in it."

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Escher in 2021

2021 has come to an end and it has been another special and unforgettable year. We look back on all the wonderful things we have been able to organise this year. No fewer than four temporary exhibitions have been held in the museum, in addition to the permanent presentation of Escher's art!
All of the wonderful images about our exhibitions, activities and the in-depth articles on our website can be seen in this special end-of-year animation. We thank everyone for their attention and support over the past year and hope to inspire you again in 2022 with our stories and artworks!

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Genazzano

In November 1929, Escher produced a print that for once was not the direct result of a journey he had made that spring. From 1925 to 1936, he followed a fixed pattern of travelling through Italy in the spring, to the Abruzzi, Sicily, Calabria or the Amalfi Coast. In the first few years, places around his home town of Rome or in the nearby province of Viterbo were added. He also travelled to Corsica and Spain. In the autumn and winter following these trips, he fleshed out his sketches and photos into prints. But in May 1926, things were different.

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Hein ‘s-Gravesande

On 2 July 1965, journalist, poet, critic and essayist G.H. 's-Gravesande, known by his nickname Hein, died. Although Escher and Hein had been friends for over 30 years, the artist did not attend the cremation. He was engrossed in working on the print Knots, a subject in which he had become completely absorbed. This would hardly have surprised 's-Gravesande. He published several articles and a booklet on the man whom he also greatly admired as an artist. Hein 's-Gravesande was one of the first critics to pay serious attention to the work of M.C. Escher, and the graphic artist owes much to him.

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Graphic arts friends

M.C. Escher is undoubtedly the most famous graphic artist in the Netherlands. But he was certainly not the only one, as evidenced by our exhibition Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries. Escher was in contact with fellow graphic artists and in a number of cases this also led to joint exhibitions. He was trained as a graphic artist and was indeed an artist, but he struggled with that label all his life. He situated himself more in the tradition of artist-as-craftsman. To be able to make graphic art, it was first and foremost important to have a solid mastery of the necessary techniques. That was true for Escher himself as well as for colleagues. He always appreciated meeting graphic artists who were also masters of their craft. He liked to surround himself with these craftsmen.

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An ode to Emma

The final print in Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries is an ode not to Escher, but to the first royal resident of this palace: Queen Emma, the Queen Mother. In this 1897 lithograph by Jan Toorop (1858-1928) we see Emma and her daughter Wilhelmina on a visit to Gouda. The print features all kinds of objects associated with industry in Gouda at the time, such as pipes and candles. The litho is made in Toorop’s distinctive Art Nouveau style, recognisable by its strong contours with graceful lines and exuberant decorative elements. This style was also popularly called the Salad Oil Style, in response to the iconic decorative poster that Toorop made for the Nederlandsche Oliefabriek (Dutch Oil Factory) in Delft.

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In search of the experiment

The history of printmaking goes back for centuries. So it is no wonder that a great range of printmaking techniques have been developed over time. From woodcut to copper engraving and from mezzotint to screen printing. Moreover, many graphic artists have successfully added their own personal twist to this ancient craft. By experimenting they paved the way for technological improvements, but also for new modes of artistic expression. Experiments formed part of printmaking from the very beginning. In the 17th century, for example, the Dutch artist Hercules Seghers inked his etchings with oil paint, bringing color to the black-and-white world of etching.

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More Escher today

Graphic Grandeur

Mortality immortalised: Julie de Graag & M.C. Escher

Memento mori: this old Latin phrase reminds people that we will all die some day. This saying is the gloomy subject of the simple yet direct woodcut of Julie de Graag (1877-1924). De Graag was a talented graphic artist and her work was highly stylised. Influenced by sculptor Joseph Mendes…
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Graphic Grandeur

Richard Roland Holst

The term homo universalis, meaning universal man, aka polymath, was coined in the Renaissance by the writer, philosopher and musician Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). Leonardo da Vinci is often seen as the quintessential polymath. In his case, this referred to his mastery of the complete spectrum of sciences. Greek philosopher…
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Graphic Grandeur

A Parade of Portraits

The tradition of portraiture goes back centuries. An entire room is devoted to this subject in the exhibition Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries. You are not the only one looking here in this gallery. Lots of eyes are looking back at you, too: from Beethoven to a stylised dog,…
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