“I was walking over a little bridge in the woods at Baarn, and there it was, right before my eyes. I simply had to make a print of it!”
With these words, Maurits Cornelis Escher alludes to the lithograph entitled Three Worlds, in which foreground, background and reflection are depicted on a single plane, that of the water, which causes the real and reflected worlds to overlap between dream and geometry, invention and visual perception, imagination and detailed observation.
With over one hundred and fifty works, including some of his most famous masterpieces such as Hand with Reflecting Sphere (M.C. Escher Foundation), Day and Night (Bressanone, Giudiceandrea Collection), Another World II (Bressanone, Giudiceandrea Collection), Relativity (Bressanone, Giudiceandrea Collection), a major anthological exhibition devoted entirely to the Dutch engraver and graphic artist is opening in Rome, putting his artistic language into context and recounting the network of seemingly incompatible cultural worlds which, thanks to his art and creative drive, achieve harmony in a decidedly unique visual dimension.
Organized by DART Chiostro del Bramante and Arthemisia Group, in partnership with the M.C. Escher Foundation, thanks to loans from the Federico Giudiceandrea Collection, curated by Marco Bussagli, with the sponsorship of Roma Capitale, the ʻEscherʼ exhibition aims to emphasize the unique way in which this scholar – because the term artist, in the usual understanding of the word, seems to be somewhat inadequate – observed nature, adopting a different viewpoint, so that beauty of geometric regularity emerges in filigree, transforming it into something magical and playful.
It is no coincidence that Escherʼs attraction to the extraordinary and the unusual first took root in his heart and mind as a result of his amazement at the beauty of Italian landscapes, from the countryside around Siena and the intensity of the sea at Tropea to the precipitous cliffs in Castrovalva and the anthropomorphic mountains of Pentadattilo. His gaze, which unearthed the symmetry of volumes, the unexpected dimension of the spaces and the historic depth of the towns and villages, extended over these landscapes. It was his familiarity with these places, which differed so significantly from the gentle flatness of his native Holland, which laid the foundations of an artistic career that ventured into the boundless fields of geometry and crystallography, becoming fertile ground for intellectual games where the imagination reigned supreme.
In fact, Escherʼs eyes were able to grasp the reality of the geometric mesh behind things, using it as the basis for his compositions to construct what he would later refer to as “interior images”.
When he left Italy forever, Escher travelled to Cordova and the Alhambra in 1936, where tessellation – the key attraction in the decoration of those Moorish monuments – triggered another creative process that coincided with the re-emergence of the Art Nouveau aspect of his artistic training.
The exhibition narrative literally follows the eyes of Escher, who always drew his inspiration from the direct and detailed observation of nature, in the wake of the enchantment that the Italian landscape held for him. The eyes of the great artist therefore rested on the wonders offered by glimpses of Italy, as well as on the little things, from blowballs to beetles, from leaves to grasshoppers, lizards and crystals, which he observed as extraordinary pieces of natural architecture.
The exhibition devoted to this great scholar, a magician of hyper-evocative design, uses Escherʼs works to convey the interpenetration of simultaneous worlds, the continuous passage between threedimensional and two-dimensional objects, but also his research into Gestalt – the psychology of shape that focused on themes of perception –, the mathematical and geometric implications of his art, the principles of visual perception and the effect that his work had on the society of the time.
The exhibition also includes a number of comparative works, including pieces by Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio de Chirico, Giacomo Balla and Luca Maria Patella.