M.C. Escher is one of the genius artist whose work startled the world, his work is housed at ‘Escher in het Paleis’ in The Hague, Netherlands. Most of the work published of Escher is of his ‘Other Reality’ , gravity defying structures, and impossible objects. In my visit to the museum I discovered a different aspect of Escher; beautiful landscapes and early graphic work, which i would like to share with you. In this two part series I am sharing photographs taken of his work at the museum, the biographical text is from the museum.
Biographical sketch of Maurits Cornelis Escher
M.C. Escher was born on 17 June 1898 as the fifth son from the second marriage of George Escher with Sarah Gleichmann. From remarks by Escher’s father, it is clear that M.C. Escher’s birth in 1898 was something of an accident; his wife very much wanted another daughter. Escher’s father, George Arnold Escher, was a hydro mechanical engineer and one of the eight Dutch ‘Watermen’ who worked in Japan between 1873 and 1878 at the invitation of the emperor. After returning to the Netherlands, his father ultimately became, in 1890, Chief Engineer Second Class at the Ministry of Water in Leeuwarden. He rented the Prinsessehof house for his family, where he had his office at home.
In 1903, the family moved to Arnhem. Escher received a broad education, including carpentry and piano lessons, and there was a telescope on the flat roof of the house that he and his father frequently used. But drawing and painting were his real passions even at an early age.
The bond between the brothers was close. Later, his brother Berend, professor of geology and subsequently rector of the University of Leiden, kept him informed about the latest scientific literature in the field of crystallography.
In 1912, M.C. Escher went to secondary school in Arnhem. There he met his life-long friends Roosje Ingen Housz, Bas Kist, Jan van der Does Willebois and his sister Fiet. The school did not interest Escher; he stayed down in the second class and in 1918 failed his final exams. Through his father’s connections, he was nevertheless accepted as a first year student at the TechnicalUniversity in Delft. His parents hoped that he would become an architect. They would have liked him to learn ‘a real profession’ rather than, as Mauk wished, to become an artist. In February 1919, Escher visited Richard Roland Holst, artist and teacher at the NationalAcademy in Amsterdam. He advised him to work with wood.
As a compromise to his parents, Maurits Cornelis Escher started in September 1919 at the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts. He enrolled in the architecture department, but within a week he showed his work to the graphics arts teacher, Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita. He advised him to switch to the graphics arts department. The director of the school, H.C. Verkruysen, agreed. After a discussion with Jessurun de Mesquita, his parents consented: Mauk could become a graphics artist.
One of the objections Escher’s father had against his son’s choice of profession was that he suspected he would not be able to support himself later in his life. This certainly appears to be the case after his education. Escher’s parents – and after his marriage in 1924 also his parents-in-law – supported M.C. Escher’s family. Father Escher helped all his sons when it was needed. In this sense, his support of Mauk was not exceptional.
Even before his international breakthrough after the Second World War, Escher had always earned his money through selling his prints. It was, however, not enough to be able to maintain his family. He regularly received such commissions as a wooden intarsia panel for the restored city hall in Leiden in 1940-41, postage stamps and bookplates. He produced illustrations for his friends’ books or commissioned by others, and the Dutch government asked Escher to produce woodcuts of Delft in 1938. Escher had regular exhibitions in the Netherlands and in Italy that were positively received.
Travel and marriage
After his time at college in Haarlem, Escher made several long trips to Italy and, in 1923, to Spain. This is where he first visited the Alhambra in Granada where he saw the Moorish tiles with their running decoration. In 1923, Escher met the Swiss family Umiker in the Italian town of Ravello. He fell in love with their youngest daughter Jetta. In the coming years, there was contact between both families which ultimately led to the consent to a marriage on 12 June 1924 in Viareggio in the presence of all the parents.
In the summer of 1925, Escher and Jetta took on an apartment in Rome. Every spring, Escher made a long journey through a different part of the country; Calabria, Sicily, the Abruzzi and the coast around Naples. And he also visited Corsica in 1928 and 1933. George was born in 1926 and Arthur in 1928. By 1938, the Eschers had moved to Ukkel, close to Brussels, where their son Jan was born. Even after his marriage, Escher continued to make his journeys through Italy, and also to North Africa and Spain, sometimes with and sometimes without Jetta.