outside of the Museum Escher in the Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands

Soaking in Escher’s artwork at a Royal Palace in The Hague

If you love M.C. Escher and find yourself in The Netherlands, not too far from The Hague, head over to the Escher in het Palais, or Escher in The Palace museum!

The first time I’ve heard of M.C. Escher was in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 2009 parody video “White and Nerdy” when Weird Al sings “MC Escher that’s my favorite MC.”  I had seen reproductions of Escher’s prints here and there before, but I didn’t know the artist’s name.

Weirdly enough, my nerdy son had already knew of M.C. Escher by then, and we spent a bit of time looking at Escher’s work online together.

M.C. Escher's litograph "Hand with reflecting sphere" (self-portrait)
M.C. Escher’s litograph “Hand with reflecting sphere” (self-portrait)

I first had the pleasure of seeing Escher’s originals in  2014, when the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire hosted a temporary exhibit of his work.  Unfortunately, taking photos was not allowed in the exhibit, so while I did write a blog post about the museum (“Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH: A Review & a bit of history“), it does not include any photos from the Escher exhibit.

Imagine my surprise to find out that there is a whole museum dedicated to M.C. Escher’s work as I was looking for something interesting to see during a recent (May 2019) trip with my son to the Netherlands!

We were staying in Delft, and the Escher in the Palace museum was just about half an hour away on public transportation. Move over all Vermeer and other old Dutch masters museums! We’re going to see a different kind of Dutch master! (Yes, MC Escher was Dutch, something I didn’t know before.)

Main staircase at the Escher in the Palace Museum in The Hague, Netherlands
Main staircase at the Escher in the Palace Museum

The museum is located in a 1760s building that served in the early 1900s as a winter palace for Queen Emma, of Waldeck and Pyrmont, Queen consort of the Netherlands and Grand Duchess consort of Luxembourg by marriage to King-Grand Duke William III.

In 1991, the family sold the building to the Local Authority of The Hague on condition that it would only be used for cultural activities.

The permanent M.C. Escher retrospective exhibition has been here since November 2002.

It’s fun looking at M.C. Escher’s work in this setting. All that gilded, very ornamental decor of the palace makes an interesting contrast with Escher’s modern, sometimes very geometric designs.

one of the exhibit rooms in the Escher in the Palace Museum
one of the exhibit rooms in the Escher in the Palace Museum
one of the exhibit rooms at the Escher in the Palace Museum
one of the exhibit rooms at the Escher in the Palace Museum

In addition to presenting Escher’s most famous artwork, the museum also teaches about Escher’s life, including early life, and his struggles in school. Apparently, he was not a very diligent student and hated school. His favorite subject was art.

Escher is most known for his “odd perspective work,” but his early art, also on display at the museum, shows he was an accomplished artist who could do “normal” art as well.

You have to marvel at the painstaking attention to detail in this lithograph from Rome – look at the bricks, shingles, and leaves!

M.C. Escher’s 1932 lithograph, San Michele dei Frisoni, Rome

While his wood engraving from Corsica slightly borders on the “unusual” and “modern”, it’s also quite fascinating.

M.C. Escher's 1934 wood engraving, Calanche of Piana, Corsica
M.C. Escher’s 1934 wood engraving, Calanche of Piana, Corsica

Then there’s “Still life and street” – at first look a perfectly normal street life landscape until you notice that the table in the foreground blends into the street in the distance.

M.C. Escher's 1937 woodcut, Still life and street
M.C. Escher’s 1937 woodcut, Still life and street

When you look at Escher’s Still Life with Mirror you might also think that it looks realistic, since the table and mirror could have been placed right next to the window, until you notice the candle is not reflected.

M.C. Escher's 1934 lithograph, Still life with mirror
M.C. Escher’s 1934 lithograph, Still life with mirror

The most fascinating works, are of course, Escher’s tessellations and his play with perspective.

M.C. Escher's 1960 woodcut in black and ochre, printed from two blocks, "Circle limit IV (Heaven and Hell)
M.C. Escher’s 1960 woodcut in black and ochre, printed from two blocks, “Circle limit IV (Heaven and Hell)
M.C. Escher's 1936 lithograph, "Print Gallery"
M.C. Escher’s 1936 lithograph, “Print Gallery”
fragment of M.C. Escher's work
fragment of M.C. Escher’s work
M.C. Escher's 1961 wood engraving and woodcut in red, green, gold and blac, printed from four blocks, "Möbius strip I"
M.C. Escher’s 1961 wood engraving and woodcut in red, green, gold and blac, printed from four blocks, “Möbius strip I”

All in all, Escher in the Palace is definitely worth visiting.

If you want to learn more about M.C. Escher, take a look at the Museum website, or the official website of the M.C. Escher Foundation.

 

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