M.C. Escher’s Masterpieces brought to The Museum of Friesland

April 3, 2018

M.C. Escher’s “Dag en Nacht” © the M.C. Escher Company B.V. All rights reserved.copyright

From 28 April 2018, the Museum of Friesland will be presenting the large-scale exhibition Escher’s Journey. More than 80 original prints, about 20 drawings and various photographs and objects will be exhibited in Leeuwarden, the birthplace of M.C. Escher, and this year’s European Capital of Culture. Highlights from all over the world trace his artistic development from a technically skilled graphic designer to a world-famous artist. Some of the works have not been exhibited in Holland for decades, and this is the first time ever that several of them are being displayed in the country. The exhibition, for which 25,000 tickets have already been sold in three months, runs until 28 October 2018.

Escher’s Journey makes M.C. Escher’s development as a visual artist tangible. The influence of the places he lived is central to the exhibition. From flat, grey Holland of the 1910s to the sun and mountains of the Mediterranean. The sketches Escher made along the way and the impressions he accumulated remained a source he would return to repeatedly for the rest of his life. The prints Escher made on his many travels are a prelude to his inversions of reality that we know so well from his later work.

The journeys of M.C. Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in 1898 in Leeuwarden, in the city palace that nowadays is home to the Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics. As a young artist, Escher travelled to Italy, where he spent his happiest years. A series of prints of Italian villages and the dark works of Rome by night show that he experimented with striking perspectives and image compilations, inspired by the landscape. Back in Holland, Escher processed all these experiences into complex mathematical images and impossible worlds. An Italian mountain landscape can be seen in the background in the world-famous Belvedere (1958), and the port town of Atrani is incorporated into Metamorphosis II (1939-1940). Escher’s iconic metamorphoses, perspectives and impossible constructions can also be seen in the exhibition. His masterpieces are so much more than graphic masterstrokes; they are assemblages of elements from different periods in his colourful life.

Masterpieces

Among the works in the Museum of Friesland’s exhibition is Eight Heads (1922). At least two variants are known of this woodcut, in which a motif of four women’s and four men’s heads is printed several times. In one version Escher printed the woodblock nine times and in the other version six times, in a different composition. In a letter from 1940, Escher describes the print from the exhibition as ‘the only print I possess’. It is one of the first tessellations he made. A special feature is that the version on view in Leeuwarden was once in the possession the artist’s eldest son, George Escher, who donated the work to the National Gallery of Canada in 1982.

Another masterpiece is Convex and Concave (1955). In this work, Escher turns a Mediterranean-style building inside out. Different perspectives merge in a dizzying yet conflicting manner. Escher said: ‘Can you imagine that I have been thinking continuously about this print for more than a month because all my attempts have always proved to be too difficult to understand?’ Escher’s attempts are reflected in the ten preliminary studies that are presented together with the print. The original lithograph he used to make the print will also be exhibited.

Collaboration

For this exhibition, the Museum of Friesland has worked closely with the M.C. Escher Foundation in Baarn, which opened up its archive and loaned a substantial part of its collection. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (permanent exhibition: Escher in the Palace) and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam also loaned a number of important works and early prints. Other loans come from Italian and North American private collections and Aegon.

XPEX Amsterdam designed the exhibition. In their innovative design, the interplay of light and dark reinforces the experience of Escher’s life and work in the six rooms. The illusion of spaciousness makes the exhibition a physical encounter.

NTR made the interactive documentary De metamorfose van Escher, which can be viewed online as well as in the exhibition via a digital workstation. This interactive documentary makes it possible to discover Escher’s work first hand, to learn more about his techniques and his place in art history. Later this year, in Het Uur van de Wolf, NTR will broadcast a documentary about this famous artist. This documentary by Robin Lutz and Marijnke de Jong complements the content of the exhibition. Lutz made the film Escher: journey to infinity, which opens in the cinemas on 12 April. The film tells the story of Maurits Cornelis Escher in his own words, with texts from his letters and diaries: his amazement, his fears, his doubts and his successes. The viewer follows Escher in his quest for inspiration, joins him on his travels through Italy, Switzerland and Spain, and shares the thought processes behind his great works.

2018 = M.C. Escher in the Museum of Friesland

This year Leeuwarden will be in the thrall of M.C. Escher. In addition to a large exhibition dedicated to his work, for the rest of the year the Museum of Friesland presents Phantom Limb: art beyond Escher. This exhibition includes impressive installations by contemporary national and international artists that put the visitor on the wrong foot and create a world in which nothing is what it seems. Like Escher, these artists question the objective perception of reality. Moreover, under the name Planet Escher, the museum is organising projects throughout the year in the province to bring together various groups within the community, with M.C. Escher as a binding factor.

The exhibition ‘Escher’s Journey’ is made possible by ING, the Blockbuster Fund, the Mondriaan Fund, the Municipality of Leeuwarden, St. Anthony Gasthuis, De Haan Advocaten & Notarissen, Leeuwarden-Fryslân European Capital of Culture 2018, Aegon, Fryslân Province and the BankGiro Lottery.

The Museum of Friesland is co-funded by the Ir. Abe Bonnema Foundation, the Province of Friesland, the Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland, EZ/Kompas, the BankGiro Lottery and Aegon.