June 19–October 11, 2010 – Art Gallery of Alberta
Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world’s most famous and recognized artists. Images of his work are reproduced and appreciated by millions of people around the world, yet few have a sense of the depth and details of the artist’s career.

This exhibition features 54 works selected from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, and includes prints that represent the different themes and areas of study that fascinated this extraordinary artist. The works selected for the exhibition trace Escher’s work from his earliest prints, works such as Eight Heads (1922), the first work that shows the artist’s experimentations with the regular division of a planar surface, which was produced during the artist’s enrollment at the School of Architecture and Ornamental Design in Haarlem, Netherlands.

After graduating in 1922, Escher traveled to Italy, eventually settling in Rome, where he remained until 1935. During these 12 years, Escher toured the Italian countryside drawing and sketching images for the prints that he would produce later in his studio at home. Mostly cross grain wood-cuts, these early works are more naturalistic representations of the Italian landscape (that are both lesser known and reproduced), with a few dream-like images such as Castle in the Air (1928) and The Drowned Cathedral (1929), that evoke the artist’s later works interest in uncanny juxtapositions and architectures of the imagination.

In 1935-1936, the interest that Escher had shown in the world around him expands from a more traditional study of the physical landscape to an intense engagement with the physics of the world – of reflective surfaces, plays with perspective and illusions of depth – and with an interest in the order, symmetry and geometric logic of mathematics. The exhibition features iconic images such as Day and Night (1938) and Sky and Water (1938), as well as examples of Escher’s studies of the multiple variations possible in the regular division of the plane through images representing his study of glide reflection, the metamorphosis of forms and size reduction. This can be seen in works such as Circle Limit III (1959) and Circle Limit IV (Heaven and Hell) (1960).

The exhibition also includes examples of Escher’s experiments with different print-making techniques, from the introduction of lithography to his work in 1929 seen in works such as The Bridge (1930) and Tropea Calabria (1931), to one of the artist’s few etchings, the mezzotint Mummified Frog of 1946. Finally, the exhibition includes examples of Escher’s plays with impossible architectures Relativity (1953); Belvedere (1958) and Waterfall (1961).

Gallery Hours