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Skull, 1917

The first post of this year: a skull. Not the most obvious choice, but for Escher it is not all that strange. He created several skulls and skeletons, as stand-alone works but also as part of a poster or a bookplate. This is the very first one, from January 1917.

Maurits is 18 and fascinated by this symbol of mortality. It kept him occupied during his youth in particular, which is not that strange for a brooding adolescent.

M.C. Escher, Skull, woodcut, second state; counterproof, 1919 or 1920
M.C. Escher, Poster, lithograph in orange, purple, yellow and green, 1920 or 1921

Escher was a very serious young man. He loved poetry and photography and he was a big fan of music and the stage. He played the violin in a string quartet and he could really lose himself in the organ concerts that were given in the Sint-Bavo Church in Haarlem. With his friends he read (in German) the great Russian novels by Pushkin, Gogol (Dead Souls and The Overcoat), Andrejev (The Seven Who Were Hanged) and Dostojevski (Crime and Punishment and The Idiot). The fantastic stories of Edgar Allan Poe were also read and discussed*. In this setting a skull fits nicely.

M.C. Escher, Interior of the Sint Bavo, ink, 1920
M.C. Escher, Sint Bavo, ink, 1920

* M.C.Escher, een biografie [M.C.Escher, a biography], Wim Hazeu, Meulenhoff, 1998, p36

More Escher today