Escher’s exhibition in Trieste

The great exhibition dedicated to Escher at the Salone degli Incanti in Trieste opened its doors on December 18th, 2019. It had to close on June 7th, 2020 due to Covid-19 emergency, but now opens again until July 19th, 2020 – with the required adjustments to protect the health of visitors.

Escher: genius between art and mathematics

carceri escher
Le “Carceri” di Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Born in the Netherlands in 1898, Maurits Cornelis Escher was a unique artist with a personal and aesthetic path that brought him close to both Italian art and mathematics.
After the beginnings on the waves of art-nouveau, the discovery of Italy and Italian art brings him to immerse in a long period of study and experimentation: he lives in our Country from 1922 to 1935. It is no coincidence that precisely in Rome he discovers the fantastic architectures portrayed in the “Prisons” series by the eighteenth-century engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi. It is thanks to Piranesi’s vision if those “impossible objects” that represent the fundamental traits of Escherian aesthetics were born.

The other fundamental element which completes the Dutch artist’s aesthetic path is the understanding of the world of mathematics: first of all, the personal exhibition hosted by Escher at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Amsterdam in 1954, and then the fascination of the great artist for the a Penrose Stairs. These stairs were created by the mathematicians Lionel and Roger Penrose in 1958 and have become the theoretical basis for many of Escher’s future optical illusion masterpieces. Some of which are present in the Trieste exhibition (Bond of union, Waterfall, Day and Night, Sky and Water I, Hand with reflective sphere).

The exhibition in Trieste

escher vincolo d'unione
Maurits Cornelis Escher
Vincolo d’unione, Aprile 1956
Litografia, 25,3×33,9 cm
Collezione privata, Italia
All M.C. Escher works © 2019 The M.C. Escher Company

In the words of the Major of Trieste, Roberto Dipiazza: “The exhibition will bring us through the main stages of the Dutch graphic artist’s artistic season in the evocative setting of the Salone degli Incanti, an exhibition venue particularly suited to evoking those perspective views, columns and marina inspirational subjects created by the artist throughout his career. As Escher loved to say that ‘amazement is the salt of the world’, so I can say that this exhibition will leave visitors amazed by the richness of the works on display and by the possibility of diving, at least for a few hours, into its magical world , made of hypnotic symbols and geometries”.
We should add that the exhibition is particularly enhanced by the large and magnificent spaces of the Salone degli Incanti on the seaside of Trieste: inside you can revive the main stages of the Dutch graphic artist’s artistic season in a truly suggestive setting, just a few steps from the sea.
In this anthological exhibition – with about 200 works – there are not only some of Escher’s most iconic works (such as “Hand with reflective sphere”, “Bond of union”, “Metamorphosis II”, “Day and night” and the “Emblemata” series), but – for the first time in the world – also the series “The days of Creation”, a nucleus of six woodcuts made between December 1925 and March 1926 which recounts the first six days of the Creation of the World.

One exhibition, eight sections

La mostra triestina è divisa in otto sezioni:

  1. Youth work. The first steps of the young Escher’s artistic experience, including art nouveau, study on tessellation, illustrations for Flor de Pasqua and for Emblemata and the six unpublished woodcuts from the “Days of Creation” series.
  2. Italian landscapes. The influence of the long stay in Italy and of the Italian landscape on his art is evident in the views of the city he had chosen as his residence: Rome, portrayed both day and night.
  3. Tassellation. Section dedicated to the theme of tessellation with a movie dedicated to the Alhambra in Granada, which Escher visited and from which he drew inspiration.
  4. Structure of space. The way Escher investigated the “Structure of space”: between “reflective surfaces” (exemplified in the “Hand with reflective sphere”) and the actual structure of space (exemplified by the engraving “Depth”, here transformed into a real environment and practicable in a repeated perspective).
  5. Metamorphoses. His reflection on the world understood as the transformation of one form into another, which finds its maximum expression in the masterpiece “Metamorphosis II”.
  6. Geometric paradoxes. Here is the – paradoxical – passage from two to three dimensions, accomplished by drawing and engraving phantasmagorical optical illusions.
  7. Works on commission. A section dedicated to commissioned works: ex libris, greeting cards, and illustrations.
  8. Eschermania. In conclusion, the overflowing of the work and the universe of the great Dutchman into contemporary and pop zeitgeist and art: gift boxes, stamps, LP covers, comics, the world of fashion, advertising, cinema and much of the optical art of the twentieth century.

Cover photo by Salvatore Napolano

Target Point, Italian Ideas