10 things about Escher you probably didn’t know

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Hand with reflecting globe, 1935, lithograph, M.C.Escher (1898-1972); © The M.C. Escher Company BV, Baarn

In December 2014, I interviewed Micky Piller, the curator of Den Haag museum Escher in Het Paleis for an article in The Underground. During our talk, she shared some wonderful nuggets of information about the museum and the artist. While most of this is matter of public knowledge, they’re still fun facts to chronicle for anyone fascinated by MC Escher.

  1. Tessellations and Tiles:During the time he was experimenting with tessellations, Escher designed a pattern for the tiles in his house. In 2009 one wall of the room in the museum which has his tessellation works was fitted with tiles from that design.
  2. Japan and the artist:The influence of Japanese art on the work of M.C. Escher started well before art school. Escher’s father worked in Japan for years and on his return he brought Japanese artefacts back home as they were very fashionable at the time.
  3. 450 works: Until recently, there were only 448 known works by MC Escher. Two new works were discovered recently. One that was made by him for his brother-in-law’s factory and another mixed-media work will be made public by the museum in early 2015.
  4. Wrapping Paper: Escher earned part of his living by designing objects on demand like patterns for table cloth, still available in the shop, tiles for pillars in schools and other buildings, stamps and wrapping paper. One such wrapping paper designed by him was used for years by the De Bijenkorf, one of the oldest shopping malls in the Netherlands. Piller told us that throughout her childhood, she associated the Escher wrapping paper with special gifts and occasions.
  5. Facsimiles: To protect the work of M.C.Escher against the damage of light the museum has to combine facsimiles of Escher prints with original work. This is not a hidden fact but made public from day one; there are signs all across the museum that declare them to be so.
  6. Originals and owners:The works on display at the museum are owned by the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.
  7. Depot: The originals are stored in the depot of the Gemeentemuseum and the curator changes regularly between facsimiles and original work.
  8. The Palais is Escheresque too: The staircase going up to the first floor from the main foyer was changed in this style during the renovation between 1898 and 1901 before Queen Emma came to live in the palace. While it appears to be going up two floors, it actually only goes up to the first landing. The route to the second floor is via another staircase that is not visible.
  9. Japan and the museum:The website of the museum is also available in Chinese and Japanese versions. Tourists from these countries are a large number of visitors to the museum.
  10. Chandeliers: Dutch artist Hans van Bentem designed in 2003 for the former ‘Royal’ rooms, ground floor and second floor, and 2009 for the two halls and the restaurant wonderful and strange crystal chandeliers.
  11. Designer floors: This list goes up to 11 too. In 1991, American minimalist artist Donald Judd was commissioned to design two floors of the building.

Should you be so inclined, you can read all about Escher and the Romance of Illusion in the article I wrote for The Underground. Simply click through.

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