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Escher today

Here 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.

San Michele dei Frisoni

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.

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Unique loan

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.

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The Calanches of Piana

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.

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Experience Escher endlessly with Nadir and Zenith

Getting lost in the world of M.C. Escher. Don’t we all want that every now and then? A few months ago I saw the latest picture book by Wouter van Reek for the first time. For this book, the illustrator and picture book creator has been inspired by none other…
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The Roger Penrose puzzle

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.

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A liberating exhibition

From 5 to 31 May 1955 the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam hosted an exhibition under the name Kunstenaars herdenken 5 mei (‘Artists Commemorate 5 May’). This coincided with the first national commemoration: 5 May 1955 was the first time that Liberation Day was celebrated as a public holiday in the Netherlands. The exhibition was an initiative of the eponymous foundation, which was founded on 1 April of that year. Escher was represented by such works as Other World and Rippled Surface.

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Knighthood, 1955

On 28 April 1955, Escher was working in corduroy trousers and shirt sleeves in his studio when he was visited by an alderman and the municipal secretary of the city of Baarn. What he was working on at that precise moment is not clear. It could be reprints of existing prints, e.g. his four-metre-long Metamorphosis II, which was in high demand. Or his lithograph Liberation, which he had been commissioned to produce for the 10th Liberation Day on 5 May of that year. The alderman and the secretary told him that the queen intended to appoint him as a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

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Easter bunnies

It is Easter tomorrow. A great moment to reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus, you might say. But we will not be doing that. Easter is a Christian festival, but it also has a long secular tradition. This is reflected in Easter fires, Easter processions, Easter eggs and, of course, the appearance of the Easter bunny: the non-religious personification of the Christian festival. Just as Santa Claus is for Christmas. As a non-believer, Escher was not particularly concerned with the tradition of the festival, but he did depict a hare and two rabbits in his work. Clearly not intended to be Easter bunnies, but in this case they will be used as such.

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Escher at school

In April 1952, 400 prints were made of the lithograph Contrast (Order and Chaos). By machine, due to the enormous circulation, but under the watchful eye of Escher. It was a commission from the VAEVO (Association for the Promotion of the Aesthetic Element in Secondary Education), which would be distributing the prints to schools in the Netherlands. This would render his work accessible to young people.

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Gargano, 1932

Escher went on an archaeological expedition, stretching from 3 to 13 April 1932, towards the Gargano peninsula. The expedition was led by Italian professor Ugo Rellini. Rellini was one of the first archaeologists to investigate this mountainous area. The peninsula stretches over 70 kilometers into the Adriatic Sea and is also known as the 'Spur of the boot'. The area was declared a National Park in 1995. The Garganic coast is known to be one of the wildest in Italy. The headquarters of the expedition was located in the town of Peschici and the main subject was the Manaccora cave, also known as the Grotta degli Dei (Cave of the Gods). Excavations were also made at Monte Pucci, home to a necropolis with hundreds of underground tombs. The Dutch archaeologist Hendrik Leopold and their German colleague Elise Baumgartel worked together in the Rellini's team.

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More Escher today

The Brexit labyrinth

Since the Brexit referendum on 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom has been in a constant state of confusion about the future of the nation and its relationship with mainland Europe. Last Friday was B-day but even that rock-solid deadline was not met. Theresa May, the lady who should have…
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Gottfried Wilhelm Locher

On the 23rd of March 1908 Gottfried Wilhelm Locher was born, a man whose name is barely known to the general public, but who has been of immense importance to the legacy of M.C. Escher. Locher already had an illustrious career in anthropology when he made a number of important…
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Pristine nature

Today is Kids’ Museum Night. One ticket enables children to visit 20 locations in The Hague and Voorburg. Our museum is participating as well, of course. The link between children and Escher is very clear. The graphic artist was able to look at the world with a curious eye and…
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