Escher in het Paleis

When you think of famous Dutch art, maybe you don’t immediately jump to the image of the two hands endlessly sketching each other. But M. C. Escher (1898-1972) was a local boy around here, born in Leeuwarden and residing in several other Dutch cities when he wasn’t traveling the world. A certain mathy scientist was rather keen to see the exhibits of Escher’s woodcuts and lithographs, so this Saturday we headed with two friends to Escher in het Paleis (“Escher in the Palace”).

A tessellation by Escher

The “Escher” portion of the museum’s title refers to the artist; “het Paleis” refers to the fact that the den Haag location served as the winter palace of Queen Emma between 1901 and 1934. After Queen Emma’s death, the royal women continued to use this palace to conduct business, receive visitors, and as a jumping-off point for “taking the air” along the beach in Scheveningen. Today the palace is graced by some of its royal furniture and photos of the rooms during the Queen’s time, and more than fifteen custom chandeliers by contemporary Rotterdam artist Hans van Bentem. (These look very grand and yet in a completely different style than we can assume Queen Emma was familiar with.)

I was the only one in our group who was more into “het Paleis” than the Escher collection. I found the tessellations interesting, and I enjoyed some of Escher’s sketches from Italy and Cordoba. But overall it’s not a style or concept that inherently grabs me. As we went from room to room I was walking past the framed pieces to read the blurb on which room of the palace we were in now, and then hurrying to tell Tim some piece of trivia about the Queen that he was not really captivated by, because he was contemplating infinity or something.

 

Man contemplates art

The Escher museum is spread over three floors (with a cafe in the basement besides), and the top floor has some interactive exhibits where perspective and mirrors mess with your head. This was interesting, and left me feeling slightly motion-sick on the way down the stairs (treacherous, in the Dutch stair tradition).

The museum is E8 for adults and unfortunately does not participate in the extensive Museumkaart program. Though it is located in a palace, you can still see the whole thing in about two hours. One thing I noticed (and liked) was that they gave out sketchpads and pencils (perhaps with some kind of instruction or ditto) to young visitors, so in some of the rooms you would find a child laying on the floor drawing.

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