Getting lost in the world of M.C. Escher. Don’t we all want that every now and then? A few months ago I saw the latest picture book by Wouter van Reek for the first time. For this book, the illustrator and picture book creator has been inspired by none other…
In May 1971, Escher made his final tessellation, a drawing in India ink and watercolor of a figure that he himself called his 'little ghost'. It was the last in a long series of tessellations made in notebooks, but it was also a remarkable drawing in another respect. In 1962 the British mathematician Roger Penrose traveled to the Netherlands and he visited Escher in his house in Baarn. The two got to know each other after Penrose saw work by Escher during the International Mathematical Congress in 1954. They started an exchange of letters that in 1960 would lead to the print Ascending and descending. Penrose has been fascinated by tessellations throughout his career, a fascination that he shared with Escher. Penrose received a print from Escher and he, in turn, gave his host a wooden puzzle.
From 5 to 31 May 1955 the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam hosted an exhibtion under the name 'Kunstenaars herdenken 5 mei '(Artists commemorate 5 May). This coincided with the first national commemoration: May 5, 1955 was the first time that Liberation Day was celebrated as a national holiday in the Netherlands. The exhibition was an initiative of the eponymous foundation that was established on April 1 of that year. Escher was represented with, among others, Other World and Rippled Surface.
On April 28, 1955, Escher was working in ribbed velvet trousers and shirt sleeves in his studio when he was visited by an alderman and the municipal secretary of the city of Baarn. What he was working on at that time exactly is not clear. It could be reprints of existing prints, for example his four-meter-long Metamorphosis II, which was in high demand. Or his commissioned lithograph Liberation, which he made for the tenth Liberation Day on 5 May of that year. The alderman and the secretary told him that they would offer him the knight signs of the order of Orange-Nassau on behalf of the queen.
Tomorrow is Easter. A great moment to reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus, so you would say. But we won't do that. Easter is a Christian feast, but it also has a long secular tradition. This is reflected in Easter fires, Easter processions, Easter eggs and of course the appearance of the Easter Rabbit; the non-religious personification of the Christian feast. Just like Santa Claus is for Christmas. As a non-believer, Escher was not particularly concerned with the tradition of the festival, but he did depict a hare and two rabbits in his work. Clearly not as Easter Rabbits, but in this case they will act as such.
In April 1952, 400 prints were made of the lithograph Contrast (Order and Chaos). By machine, due to the enormous circulation, but under the watchful eye of Escher. It was a commission from the VAEVO (Association for the promotion of the Aesthetic element in Secondary Education) that would distribute the prints to schools in the Netherlands. In this way, the youth could come into contact with his work in an accessible way.
Escher went on an archaeological expedition, stretching from 3 to 13 April 1932, towards the Gargano peninsula. The expedition was led by Italian professor Ugo Rellini. Rellini was one of the first archaeologists to investigate this mountainous area. The peninsula stretches over 70 kilometers into the Adriatic Sea and is also known as the 'Spur of the boot'. The area was declared a National Park in 1995. The Garganic coast is known to be one of the wildest in Italy. The headquarters of the expedition was located in the town of Peschici and the main subject was the Manaccora cave, also known as the Grotta degli Dei (Cave of the Gods). Excavations were also made at Monte Pucci, home to a necropolis with hundreds of underground tombs. The Dutch archaeologist Hendrik Leopold and their German colleague Elise Baumgartel worked together in the Rellini's team.
Since the Brexit referendum on 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom has been in a constant state of confusion about the future of the nation and its relationship with mainland Europe. Last Friday was B-day but the deadline it stood for wasn't a line after all. Theresa May, the lady who should have steered everything in the right direction, turned out to be the direct object of this confusion. Although the mood around Brexit is still very pessimistic, there is a group of professionals that also partly enjoys it. For almost three years the cartoonists have been producing an inexhaustible stream of political prints on the Brexit. In this stream M.C. Escher plays a striking role.
Gottfried Wilhelm Locher was born on March 23, 1908, a man whose name is barely known to the general public, but who has been of immense importance to the legacy of M.C. Escher. Locher had already completed a glorious career in anthropology, when he made a number of important contributions to this legacy. He gave lectures and wrote articles about Escher, in which he was able to interpret the richness of his art in an excellent way. He pointed to the strong contrasts in his oeuvre. Between light and dark, day and night, flat and spatial, reality and illusion, latent and manifest, far away and nearby, infinite and finite, order and chaos, reason and emotion and between head and heart. Locher saw Escher as the artist who managed to bridge the gap between art and science. Locher was also one of the first large Escher collectors. He went out on a limb for the artist, who was hardly appreciated up until the late 1950s.
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.