In November 1929, Escher produced a print that for once was not the direct result of a journey he had made that spring. From 1925 to 1936, he followed a fixed pattern of travelling through Italy in the spring, to the Abruzzi, Sicily, Calabria or the Amalfi Coast. In the first few years, places around his home town of Rome or in the nearby province of Viterbo were added. He also travelled to Corsica and Spain. In the autumn and winter following these trips, he fleshed out his sketches and photos into prints. But in May 1926, things were different.
Escher visited a number of places in the province of Rome by bus and train: Palestrina, Tivoli, Poli and Genazzano. Little is known about this journey. He took no photographs. Once back in Rome, he did not create any prints as a result of this trip either. Unsurprisingly, he was very busy with other things. A much-attended exhibition of Escher’s work was held in Rome from 2 to 16 May. In June, he and Jetta bought another house in Rome, which still needed a lot of work. The house was needed because of the imminent addition to their family. Their first son, George Escher, was born on 23 July. More than three years later, in November 1929, Escher did eventually produce a print depicting the journey: the lithograph Genazzano, Abruzzi. The latter portion of the title was a mistake on Escher’s part. Genazzano is not in the Abruzzi region, which Escher often visited, but in the Lazio region (province of Rome).
During his first travels through these regions, Escher discovered his love for high, solitary and seemingly inaccessible towns that stand out against the rugged landscape. Sometimes situated inland, sometimes on or against a rocky outcrop by the sea. Take a look at (for example) the photos he took of Positano and the island of Capri (with Jetta, Amalfi Coast, May 1925), Capranica (Viterbo, April 1927), Cefalù (Sicily, December 1927), Corte (with father-in-law Arturo Umiker, Corsica, May 1928) or Cerro al Volturno (Abruzzi, May 1929). It is a subject that would continue to fascinate him throughout his life, even after he had permanently settled in the flat Netherlands.
Escher’s approach to depicting Genazzano is different to that used in Goriano, Sicoli (also from 1929), Morano (1930) or Santa Severina (1931). Whereas he captures these places from a distance, in Genazzano he chooses to zoom in. The differences in elevation within the town become clear, but as a viewer you get nothing of the context. The result is a linear print in which the houses rise almost like residential blocks. A plethora of windows make the lithograph reminiscent of Montecelio’s large stencil drawing from 1924.