I’ve long been a fan of M. C. Escher, so it was a delight on a trip to The Hague last week, to discover the city’s Escher in Het Paleis. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours there, discovering a great little museum I had never heard of.
The museum features a permanent display of a large number of woodcuts and lithographs by Escher, among them the world famous prints Air and Water (birds become fish), early Italian landscapes, and his world of optical illusions and challenges to perspective, such as two hands drawing each other and water flowing upstream. Escher played with space to create impossible situations, such as here, in Still Life and Street, where the table in the foreground runs imperceptibly into an Italian street.
Escher, infinity and Islamic art
Two exhibitions are on this summer, Escher: eternity and infinity and Escher and Islamic Treasures. Taken together, they bring a new understanding to the works that so intrigue Escher fans.
The connector between Escher and Islamic art is tessellation, a mathematical scheme in which exterior lines seamlessly connect to each other, and fit together perfectly, like tiles. The tessellations can be repeated endlessly and in all directions.
Escher’s work was greatly influenced by visits–in 1922 and 1936–to the Alhambra in Granada, and the Mezquita mosque of Córdoba, Spain. Escher and Islamic artists use the same geometrical patterns for their tessellations. In Escher’s use of the technique, however, he goes beyond the elegance and complex shapes of Islamic art, to express movement. The highlight of the exhibition is the seven-meter-long Metamorphose III, a gigantic woodcut displayed in a circular frame.
A working palace
The great-great-grandmother of the newly crowned King Willem-Alexander, Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands, used the palace as a winter residence until 1934. Four generations of Queens used it as a working palace until 1984. Some of the original furnishings are on display, and others are depicted on screens over windows in the former Royal Chambers.
The world of Escher
An interactive exhibition, “Seeing the world through Escher’s eyes”, offers puzzles and games. The Optical Art Room uses optical illusions to bring the viewer into the works.
Like Escher? You’ll love the shop
The museum’s shop is small, but focused. It carries memorabilia of the royal family, as well as everything from coffee mugs, scarves and jewelry sporting Escher designs. Enjoy shopping in the only public building in The Hague where you can experience the ambience of a former palace, while satisfying your curiosity for an innovative and world-renowned Dutch artist.