peter greenaway voices escher

The exhibition Escher’s Journey is accompanied by an audio tour that guides visitors past the masterpieces of graphic artist M.C. Escher. The Museum of Friesland is devoting a large exhibition to this Leeuwarden-born artist, with more than eighty original prints, about twenty drawings and various photographs and objects. In the audio tour, director Peter Greenaway brings the artist’s words to life. He reads from the many letters and diaries in which Escher reported on his travels and his life.

The exhibition in Leeuwarden focuses on the enormous influence that the locations Escher visited had on his work. This travel-mad graphic artist was particularly inspired by Italy and Spain for his best-known prints. For many years he wrote letters to his family and friends informing them of his adventures during his travels. He also kept a diary, in which he vividly described what he saw and experienced. Escher's letters, diaries and interviews convey an extraordinary observational capacity and an idiosyncratic character. The excerpts are narrated by film director Peter Greenaway. The audio tour can be rented for €1.50 at the Museum of Friesland’s ticket office.

excerpts from letters

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) already appeared to have artistic ambitions at a young age. When he was 19 years old, Escher sent some of his prints to artist, designer and graphic artist Richard Roland Holst. In the accompanying letter, he asked for his advice: ‘Dear Roland Holst, Please find enclosed some prints of a few of my linocuts. I am very curious about your opinion because I have wanted to make woodcuts for a long time and do not know whether I am ready for it. I also know nothing at all about applying the technique to wood, which is of course much more difficult than linoleum. Could you perhaps recommend a book on the technique of woodcutting to me?

Shortly after leaving for Italy, on Christmas Day 1922, Escher described his new surroundings to his friend Jan: ‘The completely new atmosphere in which I live; the surprisingly unexpected and unknown feelings presented to me every day in this blessed place, could not be processed by my heart with sufficient gratitude and with sufficient mental appreciation if I did not attempt to let others share them with me by letter, and I did not attempt to record the excesses to which I am exposed here, and to save them from the cursed oblivion for a time.’

Not only his travel experiences are shared with visitors to the exhibition. Escher's famous images were always preceded by a great deal of research and practice. In letters he describes his experiments, successes and working methods. In 1960, for example, he wrote to his son George: ‘Now another brief eulogy to the pencil sharpener. I cannot do without it anymore. I only realise that now, while fussing with the design for my new endless staircase. A wonderful, indispensable object […].’

peter greenaway

Peter Greenaway (Wales, 1942) was trained as a painter, but is particularly famous for his groundbreaking feature films full of references to painting, literature, theatre, history, and especially to mathematics and numbers. He has also created cinematic installations for renowned museums all over the world.

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