M.C. Escher: The Mathemagician

Sat May 25 - Sun Aug 18

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, or of the incredible intricacies found in the original artworks when they are viewed in person.

This exhibition features 53 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 begin with Escher’s earliest prints and experimentations with the regular division of a planar surface, produced during the artist’s enrollment at the School of Architecture and Ornamental Design in Haarlem, Netherlands.

After graduating in 1922, Escher travelled 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 interest in uncanny juxtapositions and architectures of the imagination.

In 1935-36, 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 also includes examples of Escher’s experiments with different printmaking techniques, from the use of lithography 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).