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Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries

3 March to 5 September 2021

The greatest graphic art by Escher and his contemporaries

The most famous printmaker in the Netherlands is without a doubt M.C. Escher. His graphic art depicting optical illusions has earned him a unique place in both national and international art history. But he was not the only Dutch printmaker of importance in his time. The exhibition Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries at Escher in The Palace highlights the graphic art of Escher’s Dutch contemporaries. In collaboration with Kunstmuseum Den Haag the exhibition shows the versatility of Dutch graphic art through prints made by Escher’s friends, acquaintances and mentors. Also on display are the works of other artists who lent colour to the time when Escher was developing into a major printmaker.

Jacoba van Heemskerck, Old man, lithograph, 1906-1907. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Julie de Graag, Dog’s head, woodcut, 1920. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag

Graphic art is a form of art that combines creativity, craftsmanship and tradition with technical challenges. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, printmaking was very popular in the Netherlands. Graphic art was alive and well. The works were often produced in editions, introducing the art to a broader audience. This made graphic art popular, also among artists who were best known for other art disciplines. Famous names like H.W. Mesdag and Jozef Israëls, for example, also produced lithographs and etchings alongside their paintings. M.C. Escher enjoyed the company of artists who truly embraced the discipline, such as his mentors Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita and Richard Roland Holst, as well as friends like Gerd Arntz and Paul Citroen.

Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch, Landscape with setting sun, lithograph, 1867. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Hendrik Willem Mesdag, Looming storm above the beach, lithograph, undated. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Richard Roland Holst, Design for portrait in stained glass, lithograph, 1916. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Matthijs Maris, Head of a girl with veil, etching, approx. 1883-1888. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag

From landscapes to portraits and from buildings to geometric shapes, Graphic Grandeur brings together the work of 43 merciless printmakers with the work of M.C. Escher from 3 March to 5 September 2021. Prints by such artists as Piet Mondriaan, Matthijs Maris, Jan Mankes, Isaac Israëls, Jan Toorop, Jacoba van Heemskerck, H.N. Werkman and César Domela offer a cross-section of Dutch graphic art at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. The graphic art of Escher’s contemporaries features primarily the same themes as addressed by Escher, often with a surprisingly different end result. Discover the versatility of graphic art at Escher in The Palace.

Gerd Arntz, Top-end, linoleum cut, 1968. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag
Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita, Horned Owl, woodcut, 1915. Collection Kunstmuseum Den Haag

More about this exhibition

Graphic Grandeur

Richard Roland Holst

The term homo universalis, meaning universal man, aka polymath, was coined in the Renaissance by the writer, philosopher and musician Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). Leonardo da Vinci is often seen as the quintessential polymath. In his case, this referred to his mastery of the complete spectrum of sciences. Greek philosopher…
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Graphic Grandeur

Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita

Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita was a gifted artist, painter and printmaker with an idiosyncratic signature who occupies a special place in the canon of art. But above all he is the discoverer of M.C. Escher, the man who made the architecture student choose the profession that would make him world-famous.…
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Graphic Grandeur

A Parade of Portraits

The tradition of portraiture goes back centuries. An entire room is devoted to this subject in the exhibition Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries. You are not the only one looking here in this gallery. Lots of eyes are looking back at you, too: from Beethoven to a stylised dog,…
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Graphic Grandeur

Mortality immortalised: Julie de Graag & M.C. Escher

Memento mori: this old Latin phrase reminds people that we will all die some day. This saying is the gloomy subject of the simple yet direct woodcut of Julie de Graag (1877-1924). De Graag was a talented graphic artist and her work was highly stylised. Influenced by sculptor Joseph Mendes…
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Graphic Grandeur

Graphic Grandeur on film

Want to know more about our exhibition Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries, which we organise in collaboration with Kunstmuseum Den Haag? In these videos, curator Judith Kadee takes you along and gives you a preview, touching on artists such as Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch, Piet Mondriaan and Gerd Arntz. Contemporaries…
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Graphic Grandeur

In search of the experiment

The history of printmaking goes back for centuries. So it is no wonder that a great range of printmaking techniques have been developed over time. From woodcut to copper engraving and from mezzotint to screen printing. Moreover, many graphic artists have successfully added their own personal twist to this ancient…
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Graphic Grandeur

Graphic arts friends

M.C. Escher is undoubtedly the most famous graphic artist in the Netherlands. But he was certainly not the only one, as evidenced by our exhibition Graphic Grandeur: Escher and his Contemporaries. Escher was in contact with fellow graphic artists and in a number of cases this also led to joint…
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