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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.

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 steered everything in the right direction, turned out to be the direct object of this confusion. Although the mood around Brexit is still very pessimistic, there is one group of professionals that is getting some fun out of it. For almost three years the cartoonists have been producing an inexhaustible stream of political prints on Brexit. M.C. Escher has been playing a notable role in this.

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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 contributions to this legacy. He gave lectures and wrote articles about Escher, presenting brilliant interpretations of the richness of his art. He highlighted the bold contrasts in his oeuvre. Between light and dark, day and night, flat and spatial, reality and illusion, latent and manifest, far and near, infinite and finite, order and chaos, reason and emotion and between head and heart. Locher saw Escher as the artist to have managed to bridge the gap between art and science. Locher was also one of the first major Escher collectors. He went out on a limb for the artist, who received scant appreciation until the late 1950s.

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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 he managed to capture the playful spirit of children in his magical worlds. He also viewed nature with a sense of awe. For him, a mountain landscape, deciduous forest or summery lawn was never just a mountain landscape, deciduous forest or summery lawn. He saw details that no one else saw and he was able to enjoy to the fullest what nature had to offer him.

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Plane Filling I

In March 1951 Escher produced a print with the deceptively simple name Plane Filling I. I say 'deceptively simple' because at that point in time he had been a graphic artist for 30 years and had already produced countless tessellations. The principle of the regular division of the plane formed the core of his artistry, the subject to which he always kept returning. Why, then, did he suddenly produce a work that seems to suggest it is the first time he is tackling such a subject?

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Giacomo Balla

On 1 March 1958, Giacomo Balla, one of the most important artists of futurism, died. Escher probably did not know him personally, but he was familiar with his work. There are a number of surprising similarities between the futurist Balla and the early work of the graphic artist Escher.

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Moving to Baarn, 1941

On 20 February 1941 Maurits and Jetta moved with their three children to Nicolaas Beetslaan in Baarn. The couple had been living abroad since 1925. The first years in Rome, where George and Arnold were born. In the summer of 1935 they moved to the Swiss town Château-d’Oex and in 1937 they moved again, this time to Ukkel, a suburb of Brussels. In 1938 Son number three, Jan, was born there in 1938. After a more or less forced departure from Rome due to the rise of fascism and the health of his sons, and escape from the cold and the isolation in Switzerland, Ukkel seemed like a safe haven. But the arrival of the war and the death of his parents in 1939 and 1940 respectively forced Escher to reconsider his situation. After the German invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium in May 1940, it felt logic to return to his native country.

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Caltavuturo in the Madonie mountains

On 22 April 1932, Escher and his friend Giuseppe Haas-Triverio left for Sicily for a month. This was new territory for both of them. They stuck to the northern part, which they reached from Naples by the steamship Florio. The number of places they visited over the next month was impressive: the port city of Palermo with its university; the Saracen town of Corleone; Cefalù, with its famous cathedral; the Greek town of Tindari; the seaside resort of Milazzo; the island of Lipari; the beautifully situated town of Taormina; the Etna region; Giarre, with its traces of the volcanic eruption in 1928; Randazzo, with its houses built of dark-coloured lava; the lava formations at Bronte; Cesarò; Roina; Cerami; Nicosia, where the inhabitants speak a Lombard dialect; Sperlinga; Enna; Gangi; Petralia Sottana; Sclafani; Segesta, with its Greek temple; and Caltavuturo. During that month Escher produced 23 sketches which he turned into 12 prints in the winter of 1932-1933. Together they give a good impression of the visit to the island that had made such a big impression on him and Haas-Triverio.

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The White House

Escher’s first solo exhibition was held in the United States, in the Whyte Gallery in Washington, in October and November 1954. It was an initiative of the American Charles Alldredge, who had become a fan and collector after reading articles about Escher in magazines Time and Life in 1951. The two started corresponding and Alldredge went on to become something of a manager of Escher’s interests in the US. After the successful exhibition in the Whyte Gallery, he became increasingly busy looking after those interests. His workload increased considerably in 1956. Alldredge was asked to cooperate in the election campaign of Senator Estes Kefauver, who was attempting to become the Democratic candidate for the presidential election,

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50 years of ‘De Grafische’

A large exhibition was held in the Stedelijk Museum in February 1962 to celebrate the 50th jubilee of De Grafische, the association for the promotion of graphic arts. Naturally, Escher participated, as did his friend Gerd Arntz and many other fellow graphic artists. It was not exactly the first time that graphic artists were exhibiting together and under the name of their association, but they had never done so as lavishly as they did for the jubilee exhibition. Under the title ‘Print’, 300 works were displayed at the Stedelijk Museum.

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Het bezwaarde hart – The Burdened Heart

Poetry Day, next Thursday (31 January), is the start of Poetry Week in the Netherlands. Countless activities will be held to celebrate and encourage poetry. M.C. Escher was not a poet, but he did have a brother who met that description: Johan George Escher (usually called George, 1894-1969), the eldest son of the second marriage of George Arnold Escher with Sara Adriana Gleichman. He published two poetry collections. The first one, Het bezwaarde hart (The Burdened Heart), was published by Van Dishoeck in 1937. The second, Oude en nieuwe gedichten (Old and New Poems), appeared just before his death in 1969. Brother Maurits created the title page for the debut.

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More Escher today

Flying fish, birds and boats in Haarlem

Of all the themes and subjects Escher had tackled during his career, the one he was most drawn to was the regular division of the plane. He engaged in countless experiments to examine the many ways in which a plane could be filled with patterns of geometric shapes. He did…
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Magic Mirror

The liberation of May 1945 had a redeeming effect on all Dutch people who had suffered under five years of German occupation. The euphoria was enormous, and even Maurits Escher was swept up in it. On 7 May, in strong contrast to his usually reserved character, he stood cheering out…
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The ‘Kultuurkamer’

Escher did not fill the page of his diary for the first week of January 1942 with appointments but rather with a list. He was often writing lists in his diary, from shopping lists and train times to lists of work sold and his own weight and that of his…
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