Exhibition - M.C. Escher: Infinite Variations at World Chess Hall of Fame

Arts and Entertainment

May 16, 2019

From: World Chess Hall of Fame

M.C. Escher: Infinite Variations examines the mind-bending, mathematical, and metamorphic works of world-famous Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. This exhibit features an extensive collection of drawings, mezzotints, lithographs, and woodcuts, which blend and blur constructs inspired by impossible worlds, the intricacies of nature, and the infinity of chess.

Over 100 pieces, on loan from the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, showcase Escher’s extreme variety of groundbreaking techniques and subjects from his early Italian landscape sketches, self-portraits, and book illustrations to his most iconic images of impossible spaces, tessellations, infinity, and his metamorphosis series. Despite his massive fame in popular culture, Escher never fit into one style of art nor was he recognized as an important artist by the art community during most of his lifetime. However, he was venerated by the mathematics community and the American counterculture of the 1960s, who viewed him as a pioneer of psychedelic art.

In an almost six-decade career, Escher created over 450 prints and over 2000 drawings and sketches. To this day, he remains one of the most popular and most reproduced graphic artists of the 20th century. His captivating illusionistic spaces, staircases that lead to nowhere, and his endless reflections are so recognizable though most viewing them do not realize the decades of studies he labored over to create these seemingly playful scenes. It is an honor to present M.C. Escher’s work and share his processes at the World Chess Hall of Fame for the first time, and we hope that the viewers get lost in the endless spaces that he has created.

In addition to the work exhibited at the World Chess Hall of Fame, 35 other pieces from this collection are on display at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art.

M.C. Escher (1898-1972) Life and Work: Maurits Cornelis Escher was born June 17, 1898, in Leeuwarden in the northern Netherlands. He was the youngest son of George Arnold Escher and his second wife Sarah. Despite growing up wealthy with numerous resources, “Mauk,” as he was known to his friends and family, was a sickly child who did very poorly in school. He spent much of his time drawing and his artistic talent was recognized by an art teacher who began to teach him printmaking.

From 1919 to 1922, he studied at the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem, Netherlands, but lost interest and chose to pursue graphic arts. After graduating, Escher and a group of friends traveled to Italy and immediately fell in love with the culture and landscape, particularly the areas with steep slopes. A few months later, he traveled to Spain and became obsessed with the geometric tiling of the Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada. Escher was captivated by the floor and wall patterns, and he spent hours tracing and drawing the abstract designs covering the complex. This planted the seed of what would become his lifelong fascination with repeated patterns that would fill a plane.

In 1923, he met and fell in love with Jetta Umiker in Ravello, Italy. They married the following year and later had three sons. The couple moved to Rome, and Escher had exhibitions in both Italy and the Netherlands. These works at first glance seem to be faithful picturesque representations of various city and country-scapes; however, he was also playing with the boundaries of perspective and space, showing the beginnings of his new interest in creating impossible spaces on the two-dimensional plane.

During his early career, Escher also created illustrations for books that included Flor de Pascua (Easter Flower), which was written by his friend Aad van Stolk, and De vreeselijke avonturen van Scholastica (The Terrible Adventures of Scholastica) written by his friend Jan Welch. Images from these commissions as well as Emblemata, written by G.J. Hoogewerff (pen name A. E. Drijfhout), the first art historian to take interest in Escher’s work, are on view in this exhibition.

Exhibition Date: Through September 22, 2019

Gallery Hours:

10:00am - 5:00pm: Monday, Tuesday, And Saturday

10:00am - 9:00pm: Wednesday to Friday

12:00pm - 5:00pm: Sunday

Location: World Chess Hall of Fame

4652 Maryland Avenue, 

St. Louis, MO 63108.

Admission: Free

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