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The extraordinary in the ordinary

The Escher, close up exhibition is closed. The past few months 50,500 visitors have enjoyed this new perspective on Eschers life and work. Over the past few days we have been working into the night to dismantle the exhibition and restore normal order. Back to the permanent set-up, back to everyday business as usual. Luckily the everyday can also be possessed of extraordinary beauty, as became evident from Escher’s photos. As a farewell to the exhibition a final look at some beauties.

People are not a common feature in Escher’s work. Even less so in his photo albums. The latter are like a diary, intended for his own musings and jottings. A reflection of his deepest feelings, a depiction of events with those close to him. As would be the case with a famous writer’s diary, however, Escher’s photos betray the skill of their creator.

Creating without compromise

When writing a diary, you are not hampered by someone looking over your shoulder. You can engage in free association and create without compromise. The same goes for photos of loved ones. They are meant to be seen by a rather small select group, and not intended as art. Nevertheless, Escher produced some magnificent photos of his wife and children.

Escher’s manic pixie dream girl

He took the most beautiful photos of Jetta during the time when they had not been together all that long, during their engagement and the subsequent couple of years. While they were lovestruck, one could say. Which stands to reason. We see Jetta portrayed proudly at the Gorges du Fier. A silent muse. The eye of the storm amidst the violent shapes in the rocks. Sunlight plays over her face and she gazes hazily into the distance. Despite this poetic portrayal of Jetta, the lines are tight and the composition bold. The angular railing is like an arrow pointing towards her. The dramatic Gorge marks her position and the contrast with her feminine shape almost serves to make her even lovelier. Jetta and Escher just got engaged and Escher is madly in love with the silent Jetta. She is his manic pixie dream girl. This is also evident from two photos he took of her in Leiden and the Italian Alps.

Jetta Escher-Umiker in Leiden, 28th of August 1924
Jetta Escher-Umiker at Lago di Carezza, 30th of June 1927

Ephemeral skies and thoughtful toddlers

As soon as he became a father, Escher started to take photos of his children. We find a few gems amongst these too, such as the photos he took of George Arnold in 1928 and 1930. In the first of these we see George sitting in the grass on a rough stone wall. The toddler gazes wide-eyed into the distance, his hands clasped, his legs in the grass. And yet the power of this photo is not down to the portrait but the layered nature of the image. It constitutes a perfect synthesis between an ephemeral cloudy sky, overt mountain peaks, wispy grass and solid rocks – the ultimate sandwich of textures.

George Arnold Escher in Siusi, 20th of July 1928
George Arnold Escher plays with a boat, October 1930

In 1930 Escher photographed George playing with a toy boat in a residential neighbourhood. George is looking cautiously at a boat at his feet. As though contemplating the ephemerality of life – the puddle that will eventually evaporate… So what are we supposed to do with the boat then?

The photo Escher took of George on a seesaw is one that I find downright comical, and in which the artist in him looms large. What is more important here? His son? Or the composition? You decide.

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