Two thematic axes serve us as prologue to penetrate into this impressive exhibition of the works of M.C. Escher. His visit to Granada 75 years behind marked a before and an after in the conception of his art and influenced his work for the rest of his days.
M.C. Escher in Cartagena.
As soon his studies were finished, Escher devotes himself to travel to complete his formation. He lives in Italy, country that fascinates him, and then he goes to Spain. The south of Europe and especially the Mediterranean turn into the destination of many of his trips as well as an inspiration for his works. The landscapes of the south will be present during all his life.
He comes for the first time to Spain in autumn of 1922. He disembarks in Tarragona and visits Barcelona, Madrid and the Prado Museum. But his trip has a clear target, the meeting with the big Islamic monuments of the south of the peninsula: the Alhambra of Granada and the Mosque of Cordova, two constructions of which he remains deeply impressed. Between April and June of 1936 he comes back to Spain along with his wife Jetta Umiker who helps him to compile an exhaustive documentation of the Islamic decorations. In this second trip he will cover the whole Mediterranean coast of the peninsula. In the first place, as in his previous trip, he visits Barcelona, to go later by ship to Valencia, Alicante, Elche, Cartagena, Almeria and Motril, and from here towards Granada, where he spends most of the time executing drawings and sketches of the nasrid palaces. At the end of May he arrives to Cordova and draws a perspective in charcoal of the Mosque of Cordova that he dates on June the 2nd. This second visit to Spain means the starting point of the radical change of style and subject-matter in his works.
Many notes developed in these trips are still preserved; sketches drawn with pencil and chalk, in black and white and color. Escher leaves Spain in June of 1936 carrying with him innumerable sketches and loaded with ideas for his future works. He will not set foot on the red fortress again, but his later work will remain influenced by these trips, determinants for the construction of his characteristic and personal language.
Tile from the Alhambra
The principal interest of Escher in his first trip to Granada will be the visit to the Alhambra. The exuberant deployment of forms and colors of the decoration of the nasrid palaces impressed him deeply. In this architecture he discovered repetitive forms that would be a source of inspiration, being the Islamic world revealed as the plastic target he was looking for.
The second visit meant the consolidation of certain geometrical premises that he had already met in his previous trip. Especially he analyzed the geometry of the ceramic reliefs, the rhythms of the plastering and the compositional structures of the polychromed tiles. These works allowed him to discover what he would define as the regular division of the plane and the use of patterns to refill the space without leaving gaps. This find performed vital importance for his work, since it allowed him to investigate in the repetition and multiplication of the forms on the plane, as well as in the processes of transformation of the figures. In these games with the geometry it could be find the origin of a wider later investigations on the impossible spaces, the complex perspectives, the speculated images, the reversal figures, the conflict between the plane and the space and the impossible constructions. Escher made clear that the geometric topics that he found in the decorations of the Alhambra were decisive for his later work, a question that would obsess him during all his life.
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