Sunday, October 2, 2016

Maurits Cornelis Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher 

    Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in a small city of Leeuwarden in the Netherlands in 1898, grown up in a modern family and exposed to visual arts at a very young age. His father, George Escher had worked in Japan and brought lacquerware and woodcuts home with him, which has the important influence on Escher's art.  After transferred to the school of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem in 1919, where he was expected to be an architect, His talent was appreciated by his graphic arts teacher and then transferred to the graphic arts department. During the training, He experimented with a variety of art forms and styles, from realism to cubism, from woodcuts to tessellation. After completed his studies, Escher began his career as a graphic artist, traveled extensively through Europe, lived in Italy for 11 years and then moved to Switzerland. During his lifetime, M.C.Esher has made 448 lithographs woodcuts and over 2000 drawings and sketches. Many of these drawing and sketchings are used for various prints and woodcut later.


   During his time in Italy, Escher has produced many realistic drawings and lithograph on landscape. One of which is Castrovalva, made during Escher's visit to Castrovalva in the mountainous region now known as Abruzzi, less than 100 kilometers east of Rome. Escher is very good at using lines to show and exaggerate the contrast between high and low, close by and far away. In this work, He uses sight lines to show the steepness and scale  of the mountain, creating a vivid landscape of the long valley.  Being very meticulous and living a structured life, Escher is fascinated in showing “order”, which he believed underlay the nature of life. I found his work always portrait
the reality in a very disciplined and structured way, which is becoming more obvious in his later works.

For the Woodcut Tower of Babel, Escher chose a bird's-eye view to emphasize the heights. Escher love using extreme perspective  and very sharp angle in many his early works.

During his time at School of Architecture and Decorative Arts where the aim was to produce architect and craftsman, Escher was heavily trained with technical skills, where his interests in tessellations began. Furthermore, influenced by Japanese tessellations, he was interested in geometry figures and abstract tessellating patterns.

    One of his famous transformation prints, Metamorphosis I. A town transform itself into cubes and then geometric patterns. The church is in the Italian town of Atrani, close to Ravello. One of the amazing things in Escher's work is he could blend his imagination in the reality by patterns and details, making the metamorphosis credible and natural.

    Another example is Woodcut Still Life and Street. Escher played with visual sensation and created an illusion by merging the nearby and distance. There are a lot of details worth talking about, one thing to notice about is the left book appears to be part of the wall, where the transformation begins, also the books share some visual similarity with the row of houses. The transition is very natural, Escher cleverly smoothes the transition from table surface to the street.

   Escher is famous for his impossible constructions, which are inspiring to not only artists but mathematicians, philosopher and computer scientist. One of his famous work is Ascending and Descending. Mathematician Roger Penrose attended the International Congress of Mathematicians in Amsterdam in 1954 and visited an exhibition of Escher's work by chance at the Stedelijk Museum. He was impressed by Escher's work and began creating “impossible images” of his own with the help of his father, end up publishing a short article: Impossible objects: a special type of visual illusion. Escher was sent a copy of the article and was deeply impressed, began creating Ascending and Descending based on the infinite stairs concepts in Penrose's' article. The monks keep climbing higher while other groups of monks keep descending, on the same staircase.

   Relativity is one of Escher's prints involves staircases. In this print, we see the people walking on staircases from difference perspectives and directions, regardless of gravity. More observation will lead to confused while so many different perspectives convoluted in one image. Although the impossible staircases do not make sense physically, they are totally geometrically possible.

   Escher passed away on March 27, 1972, aged 73, at Rosa Spier Huis in Laren. M.C. Escher's concept of time and space, ingenious imagination and his mastery of optical illusion keeps inspiring more and more people from different fields.


Schattschneider, Doris, and M. C. Escher. M.C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2004. Print.

Scotland, National Galleries of. "The Amazing World of M.C. Escher." National Galleries of Scotland. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.

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