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Cultural Prize of Hilversum, 1965

On 5 March 1965 Escher received the culture prize of the city of Hilversum. He gave a lecture in which he illustrated once again how funny he could be. With many the name Escher brings to mind the image of this bearded, strict and precise man who lonely labours away in his study on his mindboggling prints.

This image existed in his time too and in his lecture Escher initially endorses this:

“By nature I’m not spontaneous. Creating a graphic print demands patience and deliberateness and the ideas which I want to express in it, usually come to life after careful consideration. Therefore, I mostly spend my time in a quiet studio and, how beneficial it might be to following my profession, it doesn’t help my eloquentness.” He follows this by playing with the image of the fear of the spotlights: “I have a confession to make. When the jury-secretary told me this wonderful news a few weeks ago, my first reaction was not one of joy but one of fear. My first thought was: ai!, now you’ll have to come out of your shell and jump through hoops for a whole evening.”

But in the rest of his lecture, and also in the way he delivered it, Escher shows himself a capable storyteller, taking his public along into his world. The ineloquent labourer proved himself to be an inspired artist who approaches his public with confidence. Though he thought of himself more an artisan:

“If I’m not mistaken, the words ‘art’ and ‘artist’ did not exist during the Renaissance and before: there were simply architects, sculptors and painters, practicing a trade. Print-making is another one of these honest traded, and I consider it a privilege to be a member of the Guild of Graphic Artists. I am one with heart and soul, though a find the term ‘artist’ rather embarassing. That’s why, mister mayor (and this concludes my lecture), I’d like to receive this prize as ‘just’ a graphic artist. If I can say it like this. I hope you approve of me accepting it like this.”

Of course it was Escher privilege to say this, but the world knows better now. He indeed was an artist. An artist who left a body of work of which he can be very proud and which we keep on showing to the world with love and dedication.