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OCT 25


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GREENWICH, CONN. — The Bruce Museum of Arts and Science presents the exhibition ‘Stairway to Nowhere: The Art of M.C. Escher” from October 24 through February 2. On view are more than 40 examples of the original, unforgettable graphic work by M.C. Escher, the Dutch artist whose extraordinary tessellated patterns and use of polyhedra (many-sided shapes), reflections and perspective have been a source of fascination to adults and children alike.

Drawn from one local collection, the exhibition includes lithographs, woodcuts, drawings, unique printing blocks, proof prints and artifacts from the artist’s studio.

Following its showing at the Bruce Museum, the collection will be permanently on view at the Experience in Visual Arts Museum in Athens, Greece. Situated across from the Acropolis, Experience in Visual Arts will open in the fall of 2003 and will be dedicated primarily to the works of M.C. Escher as well as artists who share his vision of space and reality.

Original artwork by Mauritis Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is extremely rare. His self-proclaimed aim in all his work, “to depict dreams, ideas or problems in such a way that other people can observe and consider them,” resulted in fascinating prints that are well-known through the numerous books and reproductions that have been best-sellers for decades. Yet original woodcuts or lithographs created by Escher are seldom accessible to the public.

This exhibition features major works by Escher, including such classic images as “Reptiles,” “Drawing Hands,” “Day and Night,” and his very last work, “Snakes” (1969), a woodcut printed in three colors. Of particular interest is an extensive set of working drawings and proof prints, which explore the complexities of geometric space that culminate in the prints “Depth” and “Flatworms.”

A spectacular highlight to this collection is the inclusion of Escher’s original lithographic stone for “Flatworms” and the complex set of carved color woodblocks for “Depth.” In addition, the exhibition includes drawings, unique printing blocks, proof prints and artifacts from the artist’s studio.

Born in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, M.C. Escher learned the rudiments of linoleum block printing as a boy. After studying architecture briefly at the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts, he turned toward graphic techniques, focusing especially on the technique of the woodcut. In his mid-20s Escher married and moved to Rome until, in 1935, the political climate became unacceptable to him. While in Italy he developed a deep appreciation for the regional landscape and architecture, including its characteristic steep, narrow stairways, tile-roofed towers and somewhat claustrophobic views through narrow passages.

“Where architecture is concerned,” Escher said, “I have been heavily influences in my pictures by southern Italian structures, in which one can often recognize Norman, Romanesque, Saracen and Moorish influences. I am, among other things, crazy about domes like bread rolls and flat, white-washed rooftops and stucco walls [such as] I saw… on the Amalfi coast.” After leaving Italy, Escher resided for two years in Switzerland, which he referred to as the “horrible white misery of snow,” and four year in Ukkel, near Brussels, Belgium, before resettling in his native Holland.

 The major turning point in Escher’s career occurred during a trip to Spain in 1936, when he visited the Alhambra, a Fourteenth Century Moorish castle in Granada. The mosaic patterns with their tessellated forms of repeated interlocking patterns profoundly impressed him and became the inspiration for the overall patterning called “Regular Division of the Plane.”

In a letter to his nephew, Escher wrote, “All the images of the last few years have come from this, from the principle of congruent figures that, without leaving any ‘open spaces,’ endlessly fill the plane or at least unlimitedly so.”

Escher produced 137 drawings of the type called “Regular Division of the Plane,” creating a virtual lexicon of obsessively metamorphosing creatures –– bees, birds, fish, frogs and snakes, flatworms, dragons, devils and angels. The artist sometimes made clay or plasticine models of the animals, and used himself as a model for poses of the humanoid creatures.

Another influence on Escher’s work was his fascination with crystalline forms. Perhaps inspired by one of his brothers, who was a professor of geology and wrote a scientific handbook on mineralogy and crystallography, Escher took an interest in natural crystal shapes and produced a print titled “Crystal” in 1947. From the crystal shape, the artist began investigating geometrical spatial figures such as regular multisurfaces, spatial spirals and the Moebius strip as well as more complex geometries in such prints as “Tetrahedral Planetoid.”

Escher once mused that “perhaps all I pursue is astonishment, and so I try to awaken only astonishment in my viewers.” His pursuit as a graphic artist resulted in more than 400 lithographs, wood engravings and mezzotints as well as numerous drawings and sketches, which continue to astonish viewers today.

“Stairway to Nowhere: The Art of M.C. Escher” is on view in the Bruce Museum’s Bantle Lecture Gallery, which may have limited visiting hours due to public programs taking place.

The Bruce Museum of Arts and Science is at 1 Museum drive, just off I-95, Exit 3, and a short walk from Metro-North’s Greenwich rail station. For information, 203-869-0376 or www.brucemuseum.org.

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