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Traces of Escher

The Palace isn’t the only place in The Hague where Escher’s work can be seen. You can find out more about him in a few places around the city. On building façades, in schools or in places where he drew inspiration. So grab your bike (or a museum bike), jump on a tram or go on foot and find out more about Escher in The Hague.

Each number refers to several locations. Click on the number to see them.

Scheveningen beach

Phosphorescent Sea

A large-scale picture of the lithograph Phosphorescent Sea is visible on a pavement on the boulevard. Escher must have been standing somewhere there when he came to marvel at the sea sparkle phenomenon.

The Escher family in Scheveningen

The holiday period is a time of relaxation, pleasure and enjoyment. So it was for Escher too. He would virtually never work during the summer months. He would head off to Switzerland, France or Italy with his family, go on holiday with Jetta or with one of his sons, or go on sea voyages with his wife or friends. Or he would go to the Netherlands. As is the case in this photo, which shows the young family relaxing on the beach at Scheveningen in the summer of 1931.

Zonnebloem art dealer

First Dutch exhibition, 1924

Bazarstraat 44a

Two of the works in the exhibition: (Roofs of) Siena, woodcut, December 1922
And: San Gimignano, woodcut, January or February 1923

Escher got his first exhibition in the Netherlands at Zonnebloem art dealer’s in February 1924. He was exhibiting his work along with the well-known architect Karel de Bazel, whose glasswork was on display at the exhibition. De Bazel suddenly passed away shortly before the opening, and because Escher was in Italy at that point in time, the exhibition was opened without either of the two artists present. The reviews were positive. For example, the Amsterdamse Handelsblad wrote:

‘A few drawings and woodcuts from Italy wondrously and skilfully evoke that nation’s eternal dream. Here we have an artist at work who has allowed himself to meditatively absorb the beauty of the mountains and cities, and then express something of them with great restraint. The fairy tale has come true. I’m thinking about the magnificent San Gimignano woodcut. The high towers standing proud alongside one another on the hill like a vision of a divine city against the night sky.’

Liernur art dealer

Exhibition 1931

Zeestraat 63

Invitation, wood engraving, September 1931
Lion of the Fountain in the Piazza at Ravello, lithograph March 1932

For his exhibition at Liernur art dealer’s in The Hague, Escher produced the invitation card himself in September 1931. The card was his first wood engraving, a technique that enabled him to introduce more detail than was possible with woodcuts. Much needed in this case, as text and image had to be added to the card, which was just 9 x 12 cm. He used the St Marcus lion on Ravello’s town square as a motif. He had visited the lion several times, and would go on to depict it again, in a lithograph. Het Vaderland wrote the following about it:

‘A deftly cut lion, with an archaic allure, invites us to go and see this exhibition; and anyone taking up this invitation will not be disappointed.’

Lute (XXIV Emblemata), woodcut. Between March and June 1931. One of the works in Emblemata. The whole series could be seen at Liernur.
Escher at the Fountain in the Piazza, 13 May 1925 (album Maurits & Jetta)

Dutch newspaper De Maasbode talking about the exhibition at Liernur, 16 October 1931
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on the exhibition, 23 October 1931

Factory Anton Escher

Logo and letterhead

2e van der Kunststraat 10-14

The letterhead with the trademark of the welder
Trademark Welder, woodcut, September 1935

In September 1935 Escher produced a woodcut for his nephew, Anton Escher. He was the founder and managing director of Ir. Escher’s Constructiewerkplaatsen en Machinefabriek N.V. Founded in 1925, the company would expand to become a major metalwork business with the largest production hall in The Hague during the 1950s.
The factory started using electric welding in 1930. Escher used the welding equipment and distinctive welding helmet for the purposes of the woodcut which needed to serve as the logo for his nephew’s printed material. His nephew was delighted with the result and paid him 60 guilders.
Anton Escher’s factory on 2e Van der Kunstraat, 1947. Photo: collection The Hague Municipal Archive
The new production hall (opened 1957) on Planeetkade, 1960. Photo: collection The Hague Municipal Archive

Restaurant Insulinde

Emblem, 1944

Herengracht 54

Emblem for Restaurant Insulinde, The Hague, woodcut in reddish brown, April 1944
Ad for restaurant Insulinde in Dutch newspaper Het Vaderland, 29 July 1944

Escher would occasionally take on a commercial assignment too. This would see him designing letter paper, a logo, a New Year’s card, wrapping paper or a wall decoration in return for money. For example, he was commissioned by the Chinese consul to produce a logo for a Chinese-Indonesian restaurant during the war, in 1944. The restaurant no longer exists, but fortunately we do still have the design.

Maris College

Tiled pillars

Landréstraat 150

Pillars made to Eschers design in the auditorium of the Johanna Westermanschool, 1966
The same pillars, moved to the Maris College, 2016

Escher designed some magnificent tiled pillars with regular tessellations for two schools, namely for a Girls School in The Hague in 1959 and for Baarnsch Lyceum in 1969. The name of the in Girls School was changed in 1968 to the Johanna Westermanschool. In 2013 the pillars were relocated to Maris College. Its currently the summer holidays, so unfortunately it’s not possible to go and see the actual pillars themselves. Why not give it a try after summer? They’re truly special.
Tile 'Swans' for the Girls' school, 1959
Tile 'Lizards' for the Girls' school, 1959

Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum

Tile tableau

Van Stolkweg 35

Tile tableau above the entrance, 2008
Detail of the tableau

In 1959, M.C. Escher was commissioned to produce a tile tableau on the façade of the Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum (VCL) at Van Stolkweg 35. Escher consulted with the building’s architect, H. V. Gerretsen, on his design featuring flying horses. These were ultimately rendered in concrete. The building on Van Stolkweg is now being demolished and the tile tableau has been put into safe storage. The VCL currently occupies temporary premises, but in due course will be moving to a new building, which will also be on Van Stolkweg. The tile tableau will then be reinstalled.

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

Ceiling painting

Bezuidenhoutseweg 73

The painting just after the completion. Photo: E.M. van Ojen, collection The Hague Municipal Archive
The ceiling today

The room of the then Secretary General Huib Patijn contains a ceiling painting depicting birds and fish. This is a 1962 design by Escher. The work was executed on vellum, which is secured to the ceiling. Unfortunately the room isn’t open to the public.

Sewage treatment plant

Façade relief

Houtrustweg 120

A façade relief designed by Escher can be seen on the Delfluent building on Houtrustweg. Entitled Birds and Fish, it was installed on the façade in 1990 to commemorate the official reopening of this sewage treatment plant in November 1990. It measures 10 m in length and weighs 4,500 kg. The relief was based on a design Escher produced in 1941.
Regular Division of the Plane (Birds and Fishes) nr. 34, March 1941
Another work based on the same birds and fish is Two Intersecting Planes, woodcut in green, brown and black, printed from three blocks, January 1952

Post Office

Metamorphosis III on linnen

Kerkplein 6
Huug Vooys working on the painted Metamorphosis III. Photo: Hans de Bakker collection The Hague Municipal Archive
Escher (second to the left) during the official presentation on 20 February 1969

I’m thinking about a very attractive commission which the Post Office might offer me.

This writes Escher in June 1967 to his oldest son George in Canada. The question was if he could expand his 4-meter long Metamorphosis II (1939-1940) with another 3 meters. For the new post office in The Hague this new 7-meter long Metamorphosis III would be blown up to 48 meters and painted on linnen. Not by Escher but by an apprentice painter. Escher would regularly check the proceedings though. The enormous painting was officially revealed on 20 February 1969. For the 48 meter version you have to go to Schiphol Airport, where it was moved to in January 2008.

Moving the Metamorphosis III to Schiphol, 2008
The Metamorphosis III in the post office during the 70's


Retrospective exhibition, 1968

Escher (2nd from the right) during the opening in The Hague, June 7 1968
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on the exhibition, 15 June 1968

Hence Escher’s first exhibition in the Netherlands was as far back as 1924, but it would be 1968 before a first retrospective exhibition was held in the Gemeentemuseum (‘Municipal Museum’) in The Hague. Escher turned 70 that year, so it was about time. But the outcome was a welcome one. The opening on 7 June 1968 was a resounding success. The auditorium was packed and in excess of 100 people who couldn’t get in were stood in the hall outside. Escher was honoured with speeches and gave a short lecture himself with the aid of some slides. The exhibition attracted tens of thousands of visitors and the catalogue soon had to be reprinted. The hordes of Dutch and foreign journalists were extremely positive and Escher was lavished with praise in the newspapers.
Het Vrije Volk, 22 June 1968
De Volkskrant, 28 June 1968

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Thanks for participating in our Summer Quest. We hope you enjoyed it and even learned something 🙂
Do you want to know more about Maurits Cornelis Escher? Check our website regularly. Each week we publish an article with interesting facts or anecdotes about his life.