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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.

Repeating reptiles

Lizards had fascinated him for quite some time, but in the summer and fall of 1956 Escher was particularly busy with them. This fascination came not so much from the behavior or way of life of the creatures, but from the characteristic form. It lent itself very well for making tessellations. In that respect, a lizard (or salamander) interested him as much or as little as birds and fish did. These three animal groups are by far the most common in his work, but they owe that status purely to their form.

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First lithograph and Schaffhausen

Between 1927 and 1938 the Escher family spent almost every summer in the Swiss town of Steckborn, with Jetta's sister Nina and her husband Oskar Schibler. In 1929 they even stayed for several months, from July to mid-October. In spring Escher had already made a trip to the Italian Abruzzo region, together with his friend Giuseppe Haas-Triverio. The tour produced 28 drawings, one of which he developed into a lithograph in Steckborn, his first of an Italian landscape.

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A tunnel of butterflies, 1944

During the war years, the production of new prints fell sharply with Escher. He lacked inspiration and he had something else on his mind. But that doesn’t mean that he did not do any creative work. During the war years he threw himself unto his regular division drawings, in which…
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Portrait of father Escher, 1935

On August 25, 1935 Escher made fifteen prints of the portrait he had made of his father. On 4 July he and his family moved from Rome to the Swiss town Château-d'Oex, after which he traveled almost directly to the Netherlands to arrange things for a long stay in Switzerland. From his parents' home in The Hague he visited, among other things, his old teacher Jessurun de Mesquita, he consulted with his cousin Anton Escher about a logo for his machine factory, he talks to the Dutch postal service 'PTT' and 'Drukkerij Enschedé' about his design for the aviation fund stamp and he meets with his friends Jan van der Does the Willebois and Bas Kist.
Between all visits he spends three weeks working on a very detailed, loving portrait of his father.

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Crystallography congress Cambridge, 1960

On August 19, 1960, Escher held a lecture at the Fifth Congress and General Assembly of the International Union of Crystallography. He was invited to this congress by Prof. dr. Dr. Caroline H. MacGillavry, professor in chemical crystallography at the University of Amsterdam. In 1950 she was appointed as the first female member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. MacGillavry was a great admirer of Escher and in 1965 she would publish the book Symmetry Aspects or M.C. Publish Escher's Periodic Drawings. For crystallographers, the tessellations, on which Escher worked for years in his sketchbooks, were ideal teaching materials. His patterns are very suitable for studying the symmetry, repetition and reflection that are so characteristic of the field. Escher accepted the invitation and immediately took fifteen private English lessons. With the organizer of the congress in Cambridge, Mr. Taylor, a busy correspondence arose about practical matters concerning the exhibition, the lecture, the housing, the participation in various events. Everything was discussed and arranged very precisely.

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Knots with Albert Flocon

In March 1965, Escher met the French artist and professor Albert Flocon, lecturer at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Flocon mainly created copper engravings and, like Escher, he was fascinated by the mystery of the perspective. Especially the curvilinear perspective, a form that Escher has also used several times (think of Hand with reflecting sphere, Balcony, Three Spheres II, Drop (Dewdrop) and Self Portrait in Spherical Mirror).
The meeting proved to be of great importance to Escher; Flocon ensured that his prints became known in Paris. The professor personally mediated on the sale of prints and an organized Escher exhibition in Paris. In October 1965 Flocon published a ten-page article about Escher in the important monthly Jardin des Arts.

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International Cat Day 2018

Today, it's International Cat Day, a great moment to show one the cats Escher has captured in one of his prints. There aren't that many. He often used animals in his work, but in his tessellations and metamorphoses these were mostly birds, fish and reptiles. The cats are mainly from his younger years. This is such an early one. Created in a period, he was 21, in which he made the decision to become a graphic artist. On September 17, 1919 he moved to Haarlem. He gets a white cat from his landlady, which would inspire him to several woodcuts. On this one the cat lies on the lap of a man who visited Escher in Haarlem. We do not know who it is. Probably one of his childhood friends, Bas Kist or Jan van der Does de Willebois, or his older brother Nol.
Also check International Cat Day 2017, featuring a cat on Corsica.

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Summer in Positano

Summer is here, in abundance. Not the time to work hard. That's something you do in autumn, winter and early spring. At least, that was the scheme which Escher has largely kept to his entire working life. If you look at the months in which he made his work, which are known from 1922 on, this is usually somewhere between September and May. It's a logical consequence of his approach; in spring and summer he went out to get inspiration, to make photos and to draw. In autumn and in winter he worked out these preliminary studies into woodcuts, wood engravings and lithographs.
Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Among these 'summer works' are early Italian landscapes, a number of works from the war years (in which Escher could not travel), a real 'summery' work like Phosphorescent Sea and also some of his most famous works. Verbum, Balcony, Horseman, Up and Down, Relativity, Plane Filling II, Sphere Surface with Fish, Circle Limit IV (Heaven and Hell) and Snakes were all made in July. August is less represented. It seems this month for Escher really was vacation month.

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Bach’s canon

It is 268 years ago today that Johann Sebastian Bach died. On 28 July 1750 the German composer breathed his last breath in Leipzig. Maurits Cornelis Escher was a big fan. The similarities between them were obvious; the mathematical order, the strictness of the rules, the symmetry, the systematic approach.
Escher was particularly fascinated by Bach's canon. In a letter to his friend Hein 's-Gravezande he wrote in 1940:

'Now, I should like to say something else to you about the connection with music, primarily that of Bach, i.e. the Fugue or, put more simply, the canon. I loved Bach and I love him too without "understanding" his technique, but since I understand a (little) bit of it, I love it a lot more.

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Escher’s palm trees

It's a tropical summer in the Netherlands and what could be more tropical than a palm tree? To Maurits Cornelis Escher it was clear. He saw something very special in this iconic tree. He was never specific about it, but it's striking how often it returns in his work. In July 1923 he made the first one, a stylized palm tree with leaves as parasols, hanging bunches of palm fruits, the scaly trunk and a halo that seems to surround the tree.
In March 1926 he used a very similar palm tree as the center of his print The Sixth Day of Creation, on which Adam and Eve can be seen in Paradise. In 1931 he again made a palm tree, as part of his Emblemata series, and in 1933 he created a fourth one.

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More Escher today

Trip to France with Jan, 1950

On 17 July 1950, Maurits and his youngest son Jan (11 years old) left for Paris, the beginning of a French journey just like he himself had made as a child. 'One hour before arriving in Paris, Jan said: you have to warn me as soon as you see the…...
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Circle Limit IV (Heaven and Hell)

In July 1960 Escher completed the last of his four 'circle limits'. He had struggled wit it for a while, but it was a publication by the Canadian professor H.S.M. Coxeter which brought him on the right path. He had met this professor at the University of Toronto in 1954,…...
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Gravity, 1952

In June 1952 Escher created the lithograph Gravity, which due to its subject naturally fits within the series of planetoids and stars that he depicted between 1948 and 1954. His celestial bodies all appear to be set in the same science fiction world, which somehow seems unlikely to be a…...
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