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Delft in woodcuts

In December 1938 Escher received a government commission to create 10 woodcuts for a booklet on Delft. For the quite large sum of 800 guilders (about €7,500 now). The commission was inspired by a series he made in 1934, on Nocturnal Rome. The booklet was never published, but he did make the woodcuts. The result is special: it’s the only series he made about a Dutch city.

M.C. Escher, Delft: Grote Markt (Marketplace seen from the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk, woodcut, May 1939.
M.C. Escher, Delft: Town Hall, woodcut, July 1939

Using his parents’ home in The Hague as a base, he travelled by tram to Delft day after day in April 1939. He walked through the city and made drawings of suitable locations for a woodcut: Oostpoort, Oude and Nieuwe Kerk (churches), Town Hall, Grote Markt (marketplace). From the street but he also climbed to higher spots to get a better point of view. The director of the Municipal works gave him permission to climb the tower of the Oude Kerk, which was a very rare thing. During the Summer months he created the woodcuts back home in Ukkel (Belgium), using the drawings as a base. In August the last of the 10 was finished.

Here we show you two of them; the ‘Grote Markt’ (Marketplace) seen from the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk and the Town Hall. The latter is a Renaissance style building from 1619-’20 on the Markt across from the Nieuwe Kerk. Escher depicts it from the south. The rear facade is partly scaffolded, probably due to the restauration that took place between 1934 and 1939.

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