Escher on Display

From EscherMath
Jump to navigationJump to search

Escher's work can be seen in several different locations. There is an official Escher museum in The Hague, the Netherlands. There are also works on display at several other locations. The Escher museum was opened in 2002. The other artwork related to Escher is listed in chronological order. The list is rounded out by a collection of smaller commissions, some of which were not executed but give an idea of the recognition Escher received during his lifetime.

Escher Museum, The Hague

The Escher museum is officially called Escher in Het Paleis ("Escher in the Palace"). It is located at the Lange Voorhout 74 in the Hague. To quote the brochure:

Nearly all the prints of the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher (1898-1972) have been brought together in Escher in Het Paleis. Escher's work is famous all over the world; people young and old get carried away away by the miraculous world he shows. Escher in Het Paleis shows famous "impossible" prints prints such as Day and Night, in which birds seem to grow out of Dutch pastures, and a couple of self-portraits. And who does not wish for the men in "Ascending and Descending" to take a short rest from walking the endless stairs around the courtyard of the old castle? We also show the praactically unknown early works like Italian landscapes, sketches he made of Moorish mosaics and bizarre still lives. In display cases you can find enlarged family photographs and woodblocks he used for printing.

Escher in Het Paleis
Escher Den Haag 075.jpg Museum2.jpg Head.jpg Colored-landscape.jpg
The Escher Museum A close up of the Day and Night print A head Landscape
Borderpattern.jpg Tile.jpg Square-prints2.jpg Square prints.jpg
Border Patterns A mosaic tile Square Prints Square Prints
Sphere.jpg Tin-can.jpg Escher-woodblock.jpg Escher-woodblock2.jpg
Carved Sphere Tin Can Woodblock Woodblock

City Hall in Leiden (1940)

In the City Hall in Leiden several wood inlays (intarsia) based on Escher can be found. See Article about Escher in Leiden for more detail and more images.

Escher1 Stadhuis Leiden.jpg Escher4 Stadhuis Leiden.jpg

The Dutch art critic 's Gravesande noted that Escher's work was well suited to real life appplications. 's Gravesande introduced Escher to the architect H.T.Zwiers who was in charge of the design of the new City Hall for Leiden. Escher received his first commission and was asked to design:

  • decorative wall panels for the council chamber
  • a clock face for the council chamber
  • a wall panel for the mayor's office
  • etched glass windows for book cabinets in the town clerk's office.

The panels were executed in wood intarsia. They consisted of satinwood root veneer inlayed with light wood species. The clock face was made with elm root veneer, teak veneer and maple. [1]

Ceiling for the Philips Company in Eindhoven (1951)

Design drawing for the ceiling at the Philips company

Escher designed a hung ceiling for the demonstration laboratory of the Philips company. The ceiling was made of large square wooden panels with outlines of the motifs cut out. The design was based on print 81. The design included the birds, butterflies, bats and flies of the original regular division print. The design was filled in with colored lucite and backlit so that the forms glowed in the dark ceiling.[2]

Pillars in the Johanna Westerman School, The Hague (1959)

Three pillars in the Johanna Westerman School

Escher designed three pillars for the central auditorium of the Johanna Westerman School in 1959. Escher worked together with an architect named Bleeker on this project. They would later work together again to design two more pillars for a school in Baarn (see below). The school and auditorium are still in use and whe we arrived they were in the middle of a graduation ceremony.

The pillars in more detail
Escher Den Haag 062.jpg Escher Den Haag 065.jpg Escher Den Haag 067.jpg

The tiles were made by "De Porceleyne Fles", a tile and ceramics company from Delft. The three designs were carefully chosen by Escher to be educational. The front column (whose close-up is on the left) has rotaional symmetry. The design consisting of lizards is based on regular division print 104. The second column (whose close-up is in the middle) is based on regular division print 74 and from the point of view of symmetries is the simplest of the three. The design only has translational symmetries. The last column is based on print 96 and has glide reflectional symmetries. [3]

Facade of the Vrijzinnig Christelijk Lyceum, The Hague (1959)

Facade of the Lyceum in The Hague

This high school in The Hague has a beautiful facade with a design involving winged horses. In the Escher museum a page from the architect's office can be seen which shows the dimensions of the design. The front panel measures 497 x 787.5 (centimeters) and the sides are 497 x 307.5 (centimeters).

Den-haag-gevel2.jpg Gevel-notes.jpg
Detail from the left side Notes from the architect

The design is based on regular division print 105, named Pegasus. The drawing is based on a square grid. Twelve different tiles were manufactured to create the facade of the school. Each tile measures 70 x 70 cm. [4]

Ceiling at the Department of Agriculture in The Hague (1962)

Ceiling in the office of the Secretary General in The Hague

In the Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit (LNV)(Agriculture, Nature and Food quality) the room of a secretary general has an Escher print on its ceiling. The pattern is printed on a cloth and attached to the ceiling. It was restored in 2004 by a British company. It takes an appointment to see this ceiling and a pass through security as this is a government building. It is somewhat difficukt to get the entire ceiling on a photograph and parts of the print are obscured by chandeliers no matter how one looks at it. Below is a picure of the center part of the print which shows the metamorphosis of the fish into the birds.

It has been noted that this design is particularly suitable for the office of an official from the Minestry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Along the center line of the ceiling we see interlocking images of birds and fish, like in the regular division print 110. The fish swim off in one direction, while the bids fly off in the other. [5]

Pillar at the Provinciale Waterstaat and Planologische Dienst in Haarlem (1962)


This pillar was painted onto a concrete column as opposed to the columns from The Hague and Baarn which were created using tiles. The pillar shows a metamorphosis in the vertical direction. The dark shapes develop from a frog into a ship and finally morph into a bird. The white shapes morph from one type of fish into another. The transition from flying fish (light) to boat (dark) is based on print 112, the transition from fish to boat was adapted from print 113, and the transition from frog to fish is based on print 114. [6]

Verblifa Tin Can (1963)


This tin can was designed in 1963 at the request of Verblifa (Vereenigde Blik Fabrikanten - "United Tin Can Producers") on the occassion of the 75 year celebration of their existence. This tin candy container was a gift to valued costumers.

The design is based on Sketch #42 (Shells and Starfish). The design of the tin can is equivalent to a tessellation of the sphere. The can has the form of a regular icosahedron with 20 triangular faces. Each vertex is covered by a starfish which shows 5-fold symmetry and in the interior of each triangular face three shells are arranged so they have 3-fold rotational symmetry. [7]

Pillars in the Nieuw Lyceum in Baarn (1968)

The two pillars in Baarn

Escher was well-known and had close ties to this school in Baarn. His three sons George, Arthur and Jan went to school here and he frequently gave guest lectures in art and serve as a jury member in competitions. In 1967 Escher received the drawing plans for the new building that was to house the school. Escher had already collaborated with architect Bleeker on the design of three pillars in a school in The Hague. Two more pillars were designed for the new school in Baarn. The designs are different from the ones used in The Hague.

Escher Baarns Lyceum 015.jpgEscher Baarns Lyceum 031.jpg

Both pillars are built from fortified concrete and are 270 cm high and 50 cm in diamter (without the tiles). The tiles are about 6 cm thick (more than 2 inches) and in its complete form the pillars have a diameter of about 80 cm. In his notes Escher refers to the pillars as pillar A (birds and fish design) and pillar B (flower design).

Both designs require two different tiles. Tile A1 has a white bird with black fish, while tile A2 has a black bird with white fish. Pillar B requires 2 different tiles because one is a 90 degree rotation of the other and the curvature of the pillar necessitates the use of two different tiles. The tiles were produced by the Royal Dutch Ceramic Factory 'De Porceleyne Fles' in Delft. [8]

Mural for Post Office in The Hague, now in Lounge 4 at Schiphol, Amsterdam Airport (1968)


A large print of Escher's Metamorphosis used to be displayed in a post office in The Hague. Due to reorganization the post office was down sized and the Escher art was moved to Schiphol airport. The print is now on display in Lounge 4 at Schiphol.

The story goes that a print of Metamorphosis II had been on display in a conference room for the Dutch postal company PTT. The director had enjoyed the print and wanted a copy for a new post office in The Hague. Initially the plan was to enlarge the Metamorphosis II print 10 times, but the actual dimensions of the wall were much longer.

Escher solved the problem by creating a new version of the print, called Metamorphosis III. Escher eventually inserted 6 new designs into the existing Metamorphosis II print. Four of those designs were already in his folio collection, and the other two he created especially for the postoffice mural. [9]

Below a side by side comparison of Metamorphosis II and III.

Metamorphosis-ii.jpg Metamorphosis-iii.jpg


  1. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 267-269, 290, 292-293, 296-297, 319-320.
  2. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 270.
  3. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 244.
  4. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 268, 312
  5. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 270, 313.
  6. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 244, 258, 260, 274, 313-314
  7. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 247, 295.
  8. AMPP Janssen Kunst in en om de School in J. Hendricks e.a., Serviam 1930-1998, Gedenkboek
  9. D. Schattschneider, Visions of Symmetry, pg 256-257, 258-262 and 174