Monday, 20 June 2011

Escher and the Alhambra

Granada is a lovely city and the Alhambra is one of the most brilliantly organised mass tourism sites I've ever been to. When we went it was a warm, sunny day (as opposed to a boiling, sunny day, which I think might be more the norm at this time of year). I had no idea what to expect but I ended up being charmed by the courtyards enclosing fountains or pools:

The decoration was admirably fine in its detail, and the space is divided so that you see it through the frames of archways, which is attractive:

although, on the decorative front, things got a bit frenzied for me at times:

However, what made the visit unusually interesting was the temporary exhibition about the artist Escher who, it turned out, spent a bit of time at the Alhambra in 1922 and 1936 and was very much inspired by the complex interlocking tile patterns on the walls and floors. In fact, the exhibition curators argue that his visits were a turning point for him, leading him to think about spatial connections in new ways and to produce his strange infinite designs. This picture certainly seems to support that thesis. In it you can see how, starting with tiling patterns, Escher moved on to ideas about breaking up geometrical space:

Perhaps his visits to the Alhambra created the epiphanies that eventually led to works like this:


  1. What a neat connection. Very cool. I have only seen the palace on video, with Segovia playing in various settings, but I've always been struck by the place's beauty . . . even in comparison with Segovia's performances, and that is saying a lot, for the likes of me.

  2. I went there seven years ago and I remember an elderly Frenchman exclaiming "Ooh la la! C'est magnifique!" - I think he may even have been wearing a beret.

    But it was magnificent and Charles V's palace seemed very dour by comparison. Thank God he had the humilty to recognise that these Islamic masterpieces were superior to anything that Christendom could produce, and issued an edict putting an end to any further acts of vandalism.

    I'm very envious of your journey around Europe - it looks wonderful.

  3. It's well worth a visit, Chris, if you ever have the opportunity.
    The phrase 'ooh la la' takes me right back to being a student in Melbourne, Steerforth - there was a place at the end of the street where I lived called the 'Ooh La La Chicken Bar'. The silliness of that name still amuses me.