Dutch artist M. C. Escher (1898-1972) is known for his impossible landscapes, like waterfalls and staircases that operate in continuous loops, and his fantastically interlocking “tessellations,” like these dovetailing blue and white birds.
But as viewers ascend the grand staircase in the Escher museum in The Hague and examine the works spanning Escher’s 55-year career, they might be most surprised by some of the Dutch artist and illustrator’s more “realistic” works.
Escher in het Paleis (“Escher in the Palace”), a three-story mansion and the former winter palace of the Netherlands’ Queen Mother Emma, recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a museum devoted to Escher. (As full disclosure, the Netherlands Board of Tourism partly supported my trip to Holland, where I visited the museum.) The staircase provides an optical illusion worthy of the artist, who was not only a gifted mathematician but also a skilled draftsman. Although the stairs seem to ascend to the third floor, they only service the ground and first floors; servants had to climb a hidden and much smaller staircase to access their quarters above.
Scanning the works in museum and trolling around on the official Escher website, it immediately becomes clear that Escher created quite a few works that have religious content.