Area 1. Figurative Representation

This first exhibition section brings together the works that Escher created during his first graphic period. The exhibition does not follow a chronological order but rather thematically reveals the different stages undergone by his artistic creation. Hence, Figurative Representation features works undertaken by the artist between 1911 and 1937.

In 1919, Escher enrolled in the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem where he made the acquaintance of his master Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita. This training period enabled him to master various graphic and engraving techniques.

From his master he learned crucial techniques in his work such as chiaroscuro, which can be appreciated in this section in portraits, representations of nature and in the interpretation of some passages from the Bible. These drawings contrast with the meticulousness of works such as Grasshopper (1935). In texts of the time, Escher declares that he delighted in drawing the smallest things, the most painstaking details regardless of the complexity and difficulty they implied for him.

With your nose right on top of it, you see all of its beauty and all of its simplicity, but when you start drawing, only then do you realise how terribly complicated and shapeless that beauty really is.

The influence of Expressionism is evident in works such as Seated Female Nude (1921) and the portrait of his wife Portrait of G. Escher-Umiker (1925), but it is in the Portrait of a Bearded Man (1919) where this influence is much more palpable.

His travels to the south, mainly to Italy and Spain, are unending sources of inspiration in his work. Therefore, his mastery of the technique and the influence exerted by the light and the landscape in the countries he visited, comprise the subject matter of his work in these early years.


During his first stage of training, Escher worked different graphic techniques, such as xylography, etching, linoleum or lithography.

His master taught him the chiaroscuro technique that consists in using strong contrasts in order to highlight certain important elements. This kind of technique can be appreciated in works such as Portrait of a bearded man, where he demonstrates an extraordinary control in woodcut.

In order to carry out the woodcuttings and xylographs, Escher used an ancient Japanese method, which consists of pouring ink over the wood with a paint roller, placing a sheet of paper over the plaque and rubbing a spoon over it. This is a difficult procedure and it requires a lot of patience, but it means that the artist could use the plaque instead of the press, which allows a perfect undertaking of the technique.


  • Railway bridge across the Rhine at Oosterbeek
    Railway bridge across the Rhine at Oosterbeek
  • Sunflowers
  • Portrait of bearded man
    Portrait of bearded man
  • Female nude in a landscape
    Female nude in a landscape
  • Seated female nude
    Seated female nude
  • Hand with fir cone
    Hand with fir cone
  • St. Francis (Preaching to the birds)
    St. Francis (Preaching to the birds)
  • Dolphins
  • Portrait of G. Escher-Umiker (Jetta)
    Portrait of G. Escher-Umiker (Jetta)
  • St. Vincent Martyr
    St. Vincent Martyr
  • The First Day of the Creation
    The First Day of the Creation
  • The Second Day of the Creation
    The Second Day of the Creation
  • The Fourth day of the Creation
    The Fourth day of the Creation
  • The Sixth Day of the Creation
    The Sixth Day of the Creation
  • Lion of the fountain in the piazza at Ravello
    Lion of the fountain in the piazza at Ravello
  • Grasshopper
  • Ant