Escher todayHere 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.
For Escher and his sons George and Arthur, 1930 was a year of illness: the sons got pneumonia, an ear infection and whooping cough and he himself suffered from intestinal and toothache. In addition, he hardly sold anything and there were no assignments for new work.
Castrovalva (1930) and Castle in the Air (1928) were on display in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in April, as part of the group exhibition by artists’ association St. Lucas, which was celebrating its 50th jubilee. Escher was a member, but he would go on to cancel his membership some months later. In 1930 there was only one solo exhibition of his work. This took place in the Baarnsch Lyceum’s (now demolished) villa Waldheim in June.
On 20 July 1969 Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon, exactly 50 years ago. He descended the stairs, set his foot on the powdery lunar surface and said: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. The Apollo 11 mission still counts as one of the most iconic achievements of human ingenuity. A milestone commemorated in all sorts of ways.
We do not know whether M.C. Escher watched the moon landing on the night of 20 to 21 July, but it is highly likely. He has depicted the moon in his work on multiple occasions.
Like an intriguing jewel on a jet-black background, the shells from this wood engraving illuminate the immense dark space behind it. Concentric Rinds is one of Escher’s most ingenious works as well as one of his most mysterious.
Philippe Druillet, born on 28 June 1944, is known for his baroque drawings and bizarre science fiction stories. After having worked as a photographer for several years, Druillet made his debut in comics in 1966 with 'Lone Sloane, le Mystère des Abîmes', a comic book that drew inspiration from Druillet's favorite writers H.P. Lovecraft en A.E. van Vogt. Later, Druillet would design several covers for re-issues of Lovecraft's work, and a number of filmposters.
‘Imagine being without Tolkien! The lonely evenings are the most difficult for my patience. But he helps me through them with his fantastic world of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and good wizards, contrasting with the most horrible, diabolical monsters’.
This ode to the British writer and academic John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973), who became world famous for his fantasy cycle The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the posthumously published The Silmarillion, is found in a letter dated 29 June 1962 that Escher wrote to his son George. His son Arthur had treated him to a copy of The Hobbit earlier that year, a book Escher read voraciously whilst bedridden, when reading became a useful means of escape.
In June 1932, Escher was commissioned by the Dutch Historical Institute in Rome. The institute wanted to devote attention to a church whose visibility was threatened by the emerging new building sites in the capital. In the lithograph that Escher produced of this San Michele dei Frisoni (the Frisian Church), he allows himself a considerable degree of artistic licence. He does not depict the current version of the church (built in 1141) but instead the original version, which was destroyed by the Normans in 1084 during the Investiture Controversy. This controversy is known as the conflict between the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV and the then pope Gregory VII.
Last week a display case was revealed at Escher in The Palace, containing a unique bequest. It was given to us by Mr and Mrs Hoogendijk-Floor. They purchased several works by M.C. Escher over the years, and these were recently bequeathed to Escher in The Palace. The works they owned include a vignette featuring fish and the accompanying woodblock. Very few of Escher's woodblocks are extant and intact, and most of them are privately owned. Hence this gift is invaluable to the museum.
Escher was a walker and an observer. Fortunately, these two pursuits go hand in hand. In his Italian years, Escher went on a long hike every spring through areas such as the Abruzzo and Calabria, which were still quite inhospitable. While doing so, he looked around in awe and contemplated the beautiful nature and idiosyncratic landscape that he found there. As an observer he had an eye for the micro as well as the macro. He could look at a plant or an insect with just as much admiration as a mountain or a coastline. After he moved to Baarn in 1941, he continued to be a fanatical walker and observer, spending many hours wandering through the woods around his home and paying just as much attention to the typically Dutch nature as to Italian nature.
In May 1971, Escher produced his final tessellation, a drawing in India ink and watercolour of a figure that he himself called a ‘little ghost’. It was the last in a long series of tessellations produced in notebooks, but it was also a remarkable drawing in another respect. In 1962 the British mathematician Roger Penrose travelled to the Netherlands and he visited Escher in his house in Baarn. The two had got to know each other after Penrose saw work by Escher during the International Mathematical Congress in 1954. They started an exchange of letters that would lead to the print Ascending and Descending in 1960. Throughout his career Penrose was fascinated by tessellations, a fascination that he shared with Escher. Penrose received a print from Escher and in return he gave his host a wooden puzzle.