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What’s on?

Escher and treasures from the Islam

12 July until 3 November 2013

After 1936 M. C. Escher used tessellation as the ideal means for his main themes, eternity and infinity. Escher was impressed by the sophisticated and sometimes complicated tessellations he saw in Andalusia in 1922 and in 1936 and he copied them in his notebooks. They connected to what he did during his training as a graphical artist between 1919 and 1922. In 1937 his older half-brother, the geographer and crystallographer Berend Escher, showed him seventeen symmetry systems of Pólya, Escher let his imagination run wild. For years Escher studied and made variations of these systems in notebooks, on loose sheets and in colour studies. This collection of studies was an inexhaustible source for his prints.

In the Islamic art tessellations are made with the same symmetry systems Escher examined. Because of this visual similarities exist between Eschers prints and objects of Islamic art with tessellations. It is noteworthy that both Escher, as well as the Islamic artists, only used a compass and a ruler to design their patterns. In the prints made by Escher you will often see living beings change: birds, fish, butterflies and reptiles. He will show you changes in shapes, or continuous movement with these motifs. In the Islamic art these shapes evolve to complex abstract shapes, or floral shapes: flowers and branches.

For the first time two Dutch museums with totally different backgrounds have organised a common exhibition in which a comparison between Islamic art and the work of MC Escher are central: Escher & Treasures from Islam in The Hague and Escher meets Islamic Art in Amsterdam. In Escher in The Palace the focus was on the graphical work with world famous prints such as Metamorphosis I, II and III , Day and Night and Reptiles and a large loan from the renowned Islamica collection of the Gemeentemuseum.

The Tropenmuseum showed, next to the graphical work of Escher, a focus on his drawings, studies and tessellation studies. This was combined with masterpieces from the Islamic art collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and with loans from the Gemeentemuseum. The objects from the world of Islam, shown both in Amsterdam and in The Hague, where used mainly in a non-religious setting. They come from a large area, extending roughly from Spain to India. Escher has not seen these objects. He got his inspiration from the Moorish (Arabic) art in Granada and Córdoba where he in 1922 and later in 1936 copied mosaics with his wife Jetta .

Publisher THOTH offered a richly illustrated catalogue in both Dutch and English: Escher & Treasures from Islam and Islamic Art Meets Escher.

Our former curator Micky Piller tells more about tessellations and visual links between Islamic art and Escher’s work.

Other exhibitions

The exhibition

Escher in The Palace is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the world-famous artist M.C. Escher, whose art startled millions of people all over the world.
The collection is housed in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands. It is the only public building in The Hague where the original royal ambience of a palace has been maintained.

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4 February until 28 May 2017

Escher, close up

Maurits Cornelis Escher used photography as a source of inspiration and as part of his preliminary studies, as was evident for the first time in the exhibition Escher, Close Up.

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15 September until 29 October 2017

Emma, mother of the modern monarchy

Every autumn, Escher in The Palace joins in with the festivities surrounding Prinsjesdag. This year the theme of the Prinsjesdag festival was 'Time to find common ground'. It was a good reason to raise the profile of Queen Mother Emma. We did this  in conjunction with the National Archive.

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October 2014 to October 2019

A Sense of Wonder

The first exhibition ever to bring together M.C. Escher’s secondary school days with the prints that he was to make thirty years later. Escher’s former secondary school in Arnhem shows a considerable degree of correspondence between the real world and a series of post-war prints by Escher. It is generally assumed that after he left Italy in 1935 reality had very little bearing on Escher’s prints. People talk of his ‘mindscapes’, as opposed to the ‘landscapes’ that characterized his earlier work.

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23 May to 1 September 2019

Nadir and Zenith in the World of Escher

The art of graphic artist M.C. Escher is a source of inspiration to countless creative spirits—from architects to rock stars, from mathematicians to graphic designers and from schoolchildren to artists. Picture book creator Wouter van Reek draws inspiration from Escher too. His latest book, Nadir en Zenith in de Wereld van Escher (Nadir and Zenith in the world of Escher), takes readers on an adventure with its protagonists Nadir and Zenith. They end up in the wondrous world of Escher, replete with endless staircases and impossible buildings. That world was brought even more vividly to life in our 2019 summer exhibition. We showed illustrations from the book, preliminary studies, the story of the creator and, of course, the works of Escher. It was an experience for visitors of all ages.

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13 October until 9 December 2018

Rinus Roelofs

Escher in The Palace showed a series of remarkable sculptures by the Dutch mathematician and artist Rinus Roelofs (Hengelo, 1954). The main subject of Rinus Roelofs’ art is his fascination about mathematics. To be more precise: his fascination about mathematical structures. Mathematical structures can be found all around us. We can see them everywhere in our daily lives.

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