One exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery that starts so far in the future, you will need binoculars to see the opening date, (well that’s what diaries are for) so I make no apology for its inclusion now or for feeling genuinely excited at the prospect of visiting the first major UK showing of this Dutch master graphic artist, who along with Hieronymus Bosch, Picasso and Dali are arguable the most popular and reproduced artists of the past century.
Like most people, my first introduction to the mind blowing works of Escher was in the form of wall posters or any one of the fifteen album covers that span 30 years. Rolling Stone magazine used Relativity on a cover in 1967 and another Rolling Stone Mick Jagger tried persuading Escher to design something for the Let It Bleed album, only to be turned down by the artist. yet oddly the honour of the first album cover went to the one hit wonder Liverpool duet (Scaffold) followed a few months later by (Mott the Hooper) in 1969. the last cover to date, being The Complete Piano Music by Gyorgy LigetI; volume one 1996, but as the works of Escher never seems to date, there will be many other uses to his art in the future. But does the commercialism of Escher work categorize him as nothing more then just another talented and popular commercial artist or as I suspect will he be recognized as one of the all time great artist, a supreme master draughtsman who seems effortlessly able to convert mathematic precision into fascinating and beautiful windows into another dimension that tease the imagination.
This substantial exhibition featuring nearly 100 works from the collection of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands will showcase a portfolio of his work that includes woodcuts, lithographs, drawings, watercolours and mezzotints some never before seen outside of his native Holland.
Escher was born in 1898 in Leeuwarden Friesland in a house that forms part of the Princessehof Ceramins Museum today. Due to ill health he was a poor student and failed most of his subjects at the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative arts, but continued to study under Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita and left school with valuable skills in drawing and woodcuts. For many years in lived in Italy and had a lifelong fondness for Italian landscapes, but in 1935 he became decidedly uneasy with the political climate under Mussolini and moved with his family to Switzerland and then again to Brussels, Belgium and finally due to the ever escalating second world war, in 1941 he went back to Baarn in the Netherlands where he lived till 1970. He died at the Rosa Spier Huis retirement home on the 27th March 1972, aged 73.
Its hard to define as to why generation after generation of young people especially, find his work so fascinating and why he supersedes fashions and trends, a mathematician who made maths interesting. In 1941 he summarized his finding in a sketchbook, writing ” Regular division of the plane with asymmetric congruent polygons” in which to aid himself in integrating mathematics into art, in which he based colour based divisions and categorised combinations of shape and colour. Escher was both an old master and a human computer years ahead of his time, for us the need to understand his work is less important then it is for his audience to stand in awe and appreciation of his genius.
Words David Coomber
Pictures courtesy Dulwich Picture Gallery
Start date 14 October 2015
price £14 Adult, £13 Senior Citizens, £9 Concessions
Tel 020 8693 5254
Dulwich Picture Gallery