escher’s unique carbon paper



The exhibition Escher’s Journey in the Museum of Friesland includes a very special loan from a private collection. It is a sheet of carbon paper that M.C. Escher used to transfer his representations to stone or wood, including his famous Day and Night (1938). In addition to various woodblocks and a lithograph, the carbon paper is one of the objects in the exhibition that clearly shows how the Frisian graphic artist made his prints. The exhibition runs from 28 April to 28 October 2018.

The carbon paper reveals a great deal about Maurits Cornelis Escher’s working method. A practical printer, he used the carbon paper several times for different prints. He wrote: ‘A graphic artist essentially has something of a troubadour; he sings and repeats the same song in every print he makes form the same woodblock, copper plate or lithographic stone.’ Some designs he only printed a few times, while others exist in hundreds of impressions. By exhibiting the carbon paper, the Museum of Friesland brings the visitor closer to the artist and his creative process.

day and night

Details of the famous Day and Night can still be recognised in the tangled lines on the carbon paper. The image was printed with two blocks, one for the grey parts, and one for the black. Escher printed his woodcuts himself. He used Japanese paper and a bone spoon to press the ink from the wooden block onto the paper. By rubbing with the convex side of the spoon, the different prints he made of Day and Night are never completely identical.

printing techniques

During his artistic career, Escher experimented with various printing techniques. He started with linocuts and became acquainted with the etching technique. He learned his favourite printing technique, woodcuts, at the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts. From 1929 onwards Escher made more and more lithographs, drawing on stone with a fatty crayon. He also tried his hand at mezzotints, but this technique turned out to be too time-consuming. Moreover, the plate used for printing was very sensitive to wear making large print runs impossible.

escher’s journey

Escher’s Journey makes M.C. Escher’s development as a visual artist tangible. The influence of the places he lived is central to the exhibition. More than 80 original works, approximately 20 drawings, letters, photo material and personal objects allow visitors to walk in Escher’s footsteps. XPEX Amsterdam’s innovative exhibition design enhances the experience of Escher’s life and work.

The exhibition ‘Escher’s Journey’ is made possible by ING, the Blockbuster Fund, the Mondriaan Fund, the Municipality of Leeuwarden, St. Anthony Gasthuis, De Haan Advocaten & Notarissen, Leeuwarden-Fryslân European Capital of Culture 2018, Aegon, Fryslân Province and the BankGiro Lottery.

The Museum of Friesland is co-funded by the Ir. Abe Bonnema Foundation, the Province of Friesland, the Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland, EZ/Kompas, the BankGiro Lottery and Aegon.