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A hand drawing a hand by M. C. Escher

© The M.C. Escher Company BV, Baarn

“Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.”
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends

Abracadabra. Magic that tricks the eye. The rabbit-in-the-hat trick. The guess-which-card trick.

Presto change-o.

Look at this image, study it and what do you see?

Vase or face by M. C. Escher

© The M.C. Escher Company BV, Baar

Can you see Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II?

My husband and I were in Amsterdam when we discovered that there was magic a half an hour away at The Escher Museum in The Hague, home of the World Court and the capital of the Netherlands.  One takes an easy thirty minute train ride from the Centraal Railway Station in Amsterdam. You stroll down a cobblestone street, lined with leafy trees and charming international embassies.

Tree lined street that leads to the Escher Museum in The Hague

Street with Embassies that leads up to the Escher Museum in The Hague

  At the end of this passage is the Escher Museum, a former Royal Palace.

The exterior view of the Escher Museum in The Hague

In my world of art, magic is often created through the  manipulation of patterns and images. M.C. Escher was a master of magical optical illusions. I’d been somewhat aware of  his magical drawings, but I had never experienced the excitement and genius of his artistic vision until I visited his collection.

 Once inside, I felt a bit like Alice in a Wonderland created by a master who tricks the eye.

Artwork by M. C. Escher at The Escher Museum in The Hague

© The M.C. Escher Company BV, Baarn

Fish by M. C. Escher

© The M.C. Escher Company BV, Baarn

While there are no tea drinking rabbits, there are alligators crawling in and out of the picture plane.

 Look carefully at the planning stages in the light pencil lines. See how he plans out the whole surface. Look at the way the alligators waddle into the drawing and out of it. Amazing.

M. C. Escher Reptiles

© The M.C. Escher Company BV, Baarn

Here was a stairway that went up, down, around and ultimately nowhere.


© The M.C. Escher Company BV, Baarn

There were interactive displays. That’s me in the orb mimicking Escher’s drawing of himself. Sandra_Ball

On the top floor, we were magically transformed into Big Alice and the Mad Hatter.

Bob and Sandy at the Escher Museum and photographed using forced perspective

These chandeliers were created by the Rotterdam artist, Hans van Bentem. He designed them especially for the museum. I think they’re knock out gorgeous and create a delightfully playful atmosphere.

Skull and Crossbones Chandeliers made by the Rotterdam artist Hans van Bentem. The artist designed these especially for the museum, with some references to the work of Escher and the Palace.

Chadeliers at the M. C. Escher Museum in The Hague


I suddenly realized that I had a connection with Escher. I had previously created a series of paintings incorporating geometric patterns, gold leaf and flowers. I wanted them to be opulent, complex and to draw the viewer into the image. I would spend hours and hours working out the mathematics of the patterns so they would fit perfectly. I loved fooling the eye by creating sensuous, folded silken fabrics that surrounded the flowers giving the illusion of three dimensions.

Éclat oil painting by Sandra Sallin

ÉCLAT © Sandra Sallin


LUMINGY © Sandra Sallin

Where did my love of pattern come from? Maybe it’s my Russian heritage. I remember one day, getting dressed for school in a checkered skirt and flowered blouse. I loved the way I looked but my mother was horrified. “You never wear checks and flowers together, never!” I was devastated. I thought I looked so stylish. While I followed my mothers rules as a young person, once I became an artist, all bets were off. I painted with pattern and passion, freely mixing diverse elements to my heart’s content. This was the real me.


 I get it, Escher!

Escher cartoon



All images appearing on MAGIC! NOW YOU SEE IT. NOW YOU DON’T. are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!

Facebook Comments
  • Sandra Ateca - Another great post Sandy! Both you and Escher have an amazing capacity for drawing and painting detail. I love your photo of Big Allice and the Mad Hatter.
    More please!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Sandra. I’m glad you enjoyed Big Alice and the Mad Hatter. We love the photo also.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara - What a fantastical, fun, magical mystery tour of fun and art! Love the Alice in Wonderland shot and your paintings? Fantastic!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - So glad you enoyed the magical mystery tour Barbara. Thanks for enjoying my paintings.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - What amazing attention to detail! Even the screws on the mirror the hands are resting on, the alligators and the book with the crumpled corner! And what can you say about the 3d drawing of the buildings. You must have spent ages in the museum. Also your own detailed pattern paintings, love them. Off to do some research on Escher. Just the sort of post to get the imagination moving, many thanks. JENNYReplyCancel

    • sandra - Jenny, so glad it stimulated your interest in Escher. Yes, I spent a great deal of time in front of each piece of work. It was fascinating. We were the last to leave the museum. The children enjoyed the museum also.ReplyCancel

  • Randy - Fantastic post!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Randy. You have no idea how I struggled to find the right voice for this piece.ReplyCancel

  • A Pleasant ouse - I’ve always be fascinated by Escher. My parents had one of his first published coffee table sized art books (1960’s) Would look at it for hours. And YOUR art work continues to amaze!!! The cartoon is priceless. Great Post Sandra!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Cheryl. I was so worried that people would not know who Escher was.I spent and inordinate amount of time looking at the drawings. They really draw you in and it’s hard to move on. Just loved it and hope this introduces more people to this wonderful museum experience. I mean if you’re in Amsterdam it’s so easy to get to The Hague.ReplyCancel

  • Kymberly - What great images, especially the ones of your art work and you and your hubster. And our mom also had a lot of fashion rules, which do still float in my head such as redheads don’t wear red. Go for those patterns mixing and matching (or not!)ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Kimberly. Please wear red with your beautiful red hair. That would be gorgeous. A tribute to your own style. Yes!ReplyCancel

  • Carpool Goddess - The photos are amazing and your artwork is gorgeous! Fabulous post.ReplyCancel

  • Leora - Escher – what fun! I love all the patterns. He must have had quite an imagination. Such skill.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - He really was a genius. You need extrodinary math skills to draw this way. The museum was truly a revelation to me.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Cooper - I love photos that really create an optical illusion. I really helps play with the mind and makes a person think. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Susan it was dificult for me to leave the museum. I was just fascinated by his work. In fact we closed up the museum. I hope this post inspires people to visit The Hague.ReplyCancel

  • Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) - What a fabulous photo. Amsterdam is on my bucket list…now more than ever!ReplyCancel

  • Krystle Cook - I love the vase and profile faces allusion. I can see both 🙂ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Did you see Prince Phillip and Queen Eilzabeth in the vase? Love it. Thanks for reading.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) - I am feeling very inadequate. I can’t find Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in the vase. I’m afraid that I’m not very visual–even though I was raised by an artist! Thanks for sharing your experience in the Escher Museum. A day trip to The Hague looks worthwhile — not to mention that I think it’s cool for a city to call itself “The” anything.

    Aha!! I went back and looked at the vase again. This time, I decided to look at the “negative” space and voilà, there they are!

    BTW, I really like the paintings where you played with pattern.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Suzanne, I didn’t see the faces in the beginning also. Pretty fine artist wouldn’t you say? Glad you enjoyed the pattern paintings.ReplyCancel

  • Jeri - This looks like so much fun. If all goes well, I will be in Amsterdam next year on a layover. I probably wouldn’t have time to fit this in, but it I had a few days, I know I would add it to my list.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Jeri enjoy Amsterdam. If you want to see the Ann Frank Museum go about an hour and a half before closing. There won’t be a line. Tip of the day.ReplyCancel

  • beth teliho - I’m so jealous you got to see the museum! I’m a huge fan. My dad used to have this big book about him and I would stare and stare at his art, and my brother even has one of his drawings as a tattoo on his back! Something with a mummy being wrapped around a face or something…haven’t seen it in years, I’d have to look it up to remember which Escher it is.

    Your paintings…omg…stunning. Wow. just wow. and I absolutely love how you have your blog set up with all the photos that are links to your posts. How clever! I’m going to play around now and read more of your posts…..ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Beth, I was delightfully surprised at the museum and The Hague. I would go back in a minute.I’m amazed at how much mathematics play a part in his art. Truly a genius.ReplyCancel

    OMG!YOU ARE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!
    LOVED HOLLAND…… has been years since I was there……..LAND of the TULIPS!!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Not only land ot the tulips but truly land of great significant art! Love those Netherlandish painters.ReplyCancel

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