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. Escher had already made a trip to the Italian Abruzzo region together with his friend Giuseppe Haas-Triverio in spring. The tour yielded 28 drawings, one of which he developed into a lithograph in Steckborn, the first one of an Italian landscape.
He decides to refresh his knowledge of the lithography technique with his former teacher at art school: Mr Dieperink. In his agenda he jots down his questions:
1st. Can one reprint the drawing with carbon paper on the blackened stone?
2nd. Is a greasy hand on the black a bad thing?
3rd. How does one prepare the stone (pumice? water?)
4th. How does one prepare the tusche?
5th. Can one draw on lithographic paper instead of on stone?
His father was following the development of the lithograph very closely, and wrote about it in his diary*. On 14 July:
‘Mauk has smeared a lithographic stone with tusche and water, with brushes from my colour box. This stone is too small to reproduce the sketches that he produces in Abruzzo, on the same scale. He therefore produced from one of these sketches (Goriano, Sicoli) a reduced drawing with the help of a square system.’
On 18 July:
‘M. traces his reduced sketch with white printing paper onto his black rubbed stone. Then he starts developing the drawing by using a small pocket knife to scratch out hatching.’
On 20 July:
‘M rose early, had breakfast alone and is diligently working on his lithographic stone in the bathroom.’
On 22 July:
‘Around 11 o’clock Mauk shows me his finished drawing on the stone. We both think it has turned out great.’
On 25 July:
‘M. back from Amsterdam with a very successful print of his stone-drawn mountain town in Abruzzo, produced in the workshops of Mr Dieperink using a stone printer who is over 60 years old and is particularly adept at all kinds of lithography, of which the process followed by Mauk rarely occurs.’
In addition to working on the lithograph and relaxing with his family, he makes a number of trips from Steckborn to the famous waterfalls in Schaffhausen together with Jetta over the course of those months.
On this page from one of his photo albums, the couple can be seen together in Schaffhausen, on 9 September 1929.
[*] M.C. Escher, His Life and Complete Graphic Work, edited by J.L. Locher, Abradale Press, 1982, page. 34-35