Saturday, March 1, 2014

M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher
Eric Lo
Maurits Cornelis Escher, more popularly known as M.C. Escher, was an artist active in the 20th century. Escher employed a number of creative techniques and created an assortment of unique pieces, a number of which I will look at more closely. Although Escher initially attended school to study architecture at the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts, he transferred to studying graphic arts after a brief time. Following his schooling, M.C. Escher decided to travel and ultimately found himself in Italy, around which he moved for many years while making art. Due to the war, Escher finally moved back to the Netherlands with his wife.

M.C. Escher’s artwork included a number of styles that ranged from drawings to lithographs. His famous style paired mathematical precision along with space, division of planes, tessellations, and perspective to produce impossible, infinite scenes. Many of his works play tricks on the natural eye. Scenes appear realistic, but when examined in detail, prove to be impossibly structured. Other works may not include these interesting scenes but nevertheless incorporate similar artistic techniques to bring them to life and serve Escher’s purpose.

Waterfall (1961)
Waterfall is one of M.C. Escher’s most famous pieces. His use of shading in this black and white piece provides perspective. The waterfall appears to fall from a structure a story above the house. Yet, if one follows the path of the water, he will notice that the water in fact flows at one level and thus technically cannot drop down a floor. The waterfall is merely an impossible illusion created by the other building structures in the piece, which are set on different levels. The perspective provided by these buildings, which are arranged on separate levels, relative to the waterfall plays a major role in tricking the observer. Escher uses a number of other techniques to construct this image to serve his purposes. His use of line weights allows him to bring the complex structure to life and along with shading, creates a three-dimensional image. Escher also makes use of empirical perspective by not only creating the main focus of the image, but also constructing a less-detailed background. These techniques are all techniques we have learned in class that help enhance the represented scene.

Ascending and Descending (1960)
Similar to Waterfall, Escher makes use of relative space and perspective to create an impossible reality that only becomes obvious when examined closely. At first glance, Ascending and Descending presents a building structure approximately four stories tall. However, it is the scene at the top of the structure that proves the most interesting. Here, it would appear that the individuals littered across the top are climbing a stairwell. Yet upon further inspection of the stairs, it becomes clear that the stairs do not actually lead the figures upwards. Rather, the whole path stays at the same level, defying the norms of perception. The rest of the structure is constructed and shaded in a way that makes the scene appear normal. Again, Escher made use of shading and differing line weights to create an impossibly real three-dimensional structure. Relative perspective also plays a role in the illusion as well. A close look at the walls next to the stairs shows that they become elevated, even though they do not.

Drawing Hands (1948)
Unlike Waterfall and Ascending and Descending, Escher does not create an impossible illusory scene in Drawing Hands. Instead, his usage of line weights and shading really come alive to create a piece that incorporates both one-dimensional as well as three-dimensional aspects. One can tell that the sleeve areas of the arm are drawn with a rather constant line weight and no shading is involved. These basic lines serve to create a one dimensional quality. On the other hand, Escher makes use of differing line weights and shading techniques on the hands and drawing utensils to make them appear three-dimensional. The detail and shadow used are remarkable. The contrast between the two modes is stunning and truly shows how the use of techniques such as line weights and shading, which we have already learned in class, can bring a drawing to life. 


F. H. Bool, ed.: M. C. Escher: His Life and Complete Graphic Work (New York and London, 1982) 

D. Schattschneider: Visions of Symmetry: Notebooks, Periodic Drawings and Related Work of M. C. Escher(New York, 1990)

Schattschneider, D.: M.C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry, Thames and Hudson, London, 2004.

Jan Willem Vermeulen. "Escher, M. C.." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 27 Feb. 014. <>.

"M.C. Escher." Totally History. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>.

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