I have been familiar with Escher’s work for many years, through posters and prints, but this is, surprisingly, the first major exhibition of Escher’s work ever held in the UK and the first time I have seen his work “in the flesh”. The exhibition has over 100 works on display, all of which are from the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague.
The works are displayed in chronological order and this, along with the information boards in each room, makes it easy to see how Escher’s work progressed and changed over the years.
His earliest works had elements of Art Nouveau and Cubism, before he moved on to the tessellation prints and fantasy worlds with which most people would associate his name. He was always interested in extreme perspectives, and this is seen as early as 1928 in “Tower of Babel”. However, it was only when Escher moved away from Italy and its wonderful scenery and landscapes in 1935 that he began to invent and draw imaginary landscapes. Although his works are full of warped perspectives and optical illusions, he somehow seems to make the impossible look real.
Escher’s most well-known works are of course here, including “Waterfall”, “Belvedere”, “Day and Night”, and “Ascending and Descending”, but there are also many lesser known works, together with his preparatory sketches for some of them. The precision of Escher’s work, particularly in his tessellated designs (where shapes of birds and animals interlock with no overlaps or gaps) is incredible in its detail.
Escher’s work became very popular when it was discovered by hippies in the 1960s, who looked on it as psychedelic, mind-bending art, and it was also appropriated for some record album covers. I was amused to note that Mick Jagger had apparently wanted to commission an original Escher work for a Rolling Stones album, but Escher replied that he had no idea who he was, and just wanted to get on with his own work!
The whole exhibition is fascinating, and there is just so much to see in all of the works on display.
The Amazing World of M C Escher runs until 27th September, and I would highly recommend that you make a trip to the Modern Two to see it.