M. C. Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmʌurɪt͡s kɔrˈneːlɪs ˈɛʃər]; 17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972) was a Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically-inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. Despite wide popular interest, Escher was for long somewhat neglected in the art world, even in his native Netherlands. He was 70 before a retrospective exhibition was held. In the twenty-first century, he became more widely appreciated, with exhibitions across the world.

His work features mathematical objects and operations including impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry, and tessellations. Although Escher believed he had no mathematical ability, he interacted with the mathematicians George Pólya, Roger Penrose, Harold Coxeter and crystallographer Friedrich Haag, and conducted his own research into tessellation.

Early in his career, he drew inspiration from nature, making studies of insects, landscapes, and plants such as lichens, all of which he used as details in his artworks. He traveled in Italy and Spain, sketching buildings, townscapes, architecture and the tilings of the Alhambra and the Mezquita of Cordoba, and became steadily more interested in their mathematical structure.

Escher's art became well known among scientists and mathematicians, and in popular culture, especially after it was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1966 Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. Apart from being used in a variety of technical papers, his work has appeared on the covers of many books and albums. He was one of the major inspirations of Douglas Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach.

M. C. Escher
Black-and-white photograph of Escher in November 1971
In November 1971
Maurits Cornelis Escher

17 June 1898
Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Died27 March 1972 (aged 73)
Hilversum, Netherlands
Resting placeBaarn, Netherlands
Known forDrawing, printmaking
Notable work
Jetta Umiker (m. 1924)
AwardsKnight (1955) and Officer (1967) of the Order of Orange-Nassau

Early life

Leeuwarden - Keramiekmuseum Princessehof
Escher's birth house, now part of the Princessehof Ceramics Museum, in Leeuwarden, Friesland, the Netherlands

Maurits Cornelis[a] Escher was born on 17 June 1898 in Leeuwarden, Friesland, the Netherlands, in a house that forms part of the Princessehof Ceramics Museum today. He was the youngest son of the civil engineer George Arnold Escher and his second wife, Sara Gleichman. In 1903, the family moved to Arnhem, where he attended primary and secondary school until 1918.[1][2] Known to his friends and family as "Mauk", he was a sickly child and was placed in a special school at the age of seven; he failed the second grade.[3] Although he excelled at drawing, his grades were generally poor. He took carpentry and piano lessons until he was thirteen years old.[1][2]

In 1918, he went to the Technical College of Delft.[1][2] From 1919 to 1922, Escher attended the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts, learning drawing and the art of making woodcuts.[1] He briefly studied architecture, but he failed a number of subjects (due partly to a persistent skin infection) and switched to decorative arts,[3] studying under the graphic artist Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita.[4]

Study journeys

Moorish tessellations including this one at the Alhambra inspired Escher's work with tilings of the plane. He made sketches of this and other Alhambra patterns in 1936.[5]

In 1922, an important year of his life, Escher traveled through Italy, visiting Florence, San Gimignano, Volterra, Siena, and Ravello. In the same year, he traveled through Spain, visiting Madrid, Toledo, and Granada.[1] He was impressed by the Italian countryside and, in Granada, by the Moorish architecture of the fourteenth-century Alhambra. The intricate decorative designs of the Alhambra, based on geometrical symmetries featuring interlocking repetitive patterns in the coloured tiles or sculpted into the walls and ceilings, triggered his interest in the mathematics of tessellation and became a powerful influence on his work.[6][7]

Escher Alhambra Tessellation Sketch
Escher's painstaking[b][8] study of the same Moorish tiling in the Alhambra, 1936, demonstrates his growing interest in tessellation.

Escher returned to Italy and lived in Rome from 1923 to 1935. While in Italy, Escher met Jetta Umiker – a Swiss woman, like himself attracted to Italy – whom he married in 1924. The couple settled in Rome where their first son, Giorgio (George) Arnaldo Escher, named after his grandfather, was born. Escher and Jetta later had two more sons – Arthur and Jan.[1][2]

He travelled frequently, visiting (among other places) Viterbo in 1926, the Abruzzi in 1927 and 1929, Corsica in 1928 and 1933, Calabria in 1930, the Amalfi coast in 1931 and 1934, and Gargano and Sicily in 1932 and 1935. The townscapes and landscapes of these places feature prominently in his artworks. In May and June 1936, Escher travelled back to Spain, revisiting the Alhambra and spending days at a time making detailed drawings of its mosaic patterns. It was here that he became fascinated, to the point of obsession, with tessellation, explaining:[4]

It remains an extremely absorbing activity, a real mania to which I have become addicted, and from which I sometimes find it hard to tear myself away.[8]

The sketches he made in the Alhambra formed a major source for his work from that time on.[8] He also studied the architecture of the Mezquita, the Moorish mosque of Cordoba. This turned out to be the last of his long study journeys; after 1937, his artworks were created in his studio rather than in the field. His art correspondingly changed sharply from being mainly observational, with a strong emphasis on the realistic details of things seen in nature and architecture, to being the product of his geometric analysis and his visual imagination. All the same, even his early work already shows his interest in the nature of space, the unusual, perspective, and multiple points of view.[4][8]

Later life

In 1935, the political climate in Italy (under Mussolini) became unacceptable to Escher. He had no interest in politics, finding it impossible to involve himself with any ideals other than the expressions of his own concepts through his own particular medium, but he was averse to fanaticism and hypocrisy. When his eldest son, George, was forced at the age of nine to wear a Ballila uniform in school, the family left Italy and moved to Château-d'Œx, Switzerland, where they remained for two years.[9]

The Netherlands post office had Escher design a semi-postal stamp for the "Air Fund" in 1935,[10] and again in 1949 he designed Netherlands stamps. These were for the 75th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union; a different design was used by Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles for the same commemoration.[11][12]

Escher Snakes
Escher's last work, Snakes, 1969

Escher, who had been very fond of and inspired by the landscapes in Italy, was decidedly unhappy in Switzerland. In 1937, the family moved again, to Uccle (Ukkel), a suburb of Brussels, Belgium.[1][2] World War II forced them to move in January 1941, this time to Baarn, Netherlands, where Escher lived until 1970.[1] Most of Escher's best-known works date from this period. The sometimes cloudy, cold, and wet weather of the Netherlands allowed him to focus intently on his work.[1] After 1953, Escher lectured widely. A planned series of lectures in North America in 1962 was cancelled after an illness, and he stopped creating artworks for a time,[1] but the illustrations and text for the lectures were later published as part of the book Escher on Escher.[13] He was awarded the Knighthood of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1955;[1] he was later made an Officer in 1967.[14]

In July 1969 he finished his last work, a large woodcut with threefold rotational symmetry called Snakes, in which snakes wind through a pattern of linked rings. These shrink to infinity toward both the center and the edge of a circle. It was exceptionally elaborate, being printed using three blocks, each rotated three times about the center of the image and precisely aligned to avoid gaps and overlaps, for a total of nine print operations for each finished print. The image encapsulates Escher's love of symmetry; of interlocking patterns; and, at the end of his life, of his approach to infinity.[15][16][17] The care that Escher took in creating and printing this woodcut can be seen in a video recording.[18]

Escher moved to the Rosa Spier Huis in Laren in 1970, an artists' retirement home in which he had his own studio. He died in a hospital in Hilversum on 27 March 1972, aged 73.[1][2] He is buried at the New Cemetery in Baarn.[19][20]

Mathematically inspired work

Escher's work is inescapably mathematical. This has caused a disconnect between his full-on popular fame and the lack of esteem with which he has been viewed in the art world. His originality and mastery of graphic techniques are respected, but his works have been thought too intellectual and insufficiently lyrical. Movements such as conceptual art have, to a degree, reversed the art world's attitude to intellectuality and lyricism, but this did not rehabilitate Escher, because traditional critics still disliked his narrative themes and his use of perspective. However, these same qualities made his work highly attractive to the public.[21]

Escher is not the first artist to explore mathematical themes: Parmigianino (1503–1540) had explored spherical geometry and reflection in his 1524 Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, depicting his own image in a curved mirror, while William Hogarth's 1754 Satire on False Perspective foreshadows Escher's playful exploration of errors in perspective.[22][23] Another early artistic forerunner is Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), whose dark "fantastical"[24] prints such as The Drawbridge in his Carceri ("Prisons") sequence depict perspectives of complex architecture with many stairs and ramps, peopled by walking figures.[24][25] Only with 20th century movements such as Cubism, De Stijl, Dadaism, and Surrealism did mainstream art start to explore Escher-like ways of looking at the world with multiple simultaneous viewpoints.[21] However, although Escher had much in common with, for example, Magritte's surrealism, he did not make contact with any of these movements.[26]

Parmigianino Selfportrait

Forerunner of Escher's curved perspectives, geometries, and reflections: Parmigianino's Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, 1524

William Hogarth - Absurd perspectives

Forerunner of Escher's impossible perspectives: William Hogarth's Satire on False Perspective, 1753

Giovanni Battista Piranesi - The Drawbridge - Google Art Project

Forerunner of Escher's fantastic endless stairs: Piranesi's Carceri Plate VII – The Drawbridge, 1745, reworked 1761


In his early years, Escher sketched landscapes and nature. He also sketched insects such as ants, bees, grasshoppers, and mantises,[27] which appeared frequently in his later work. His early love of Roman and Italian landscapes and of nature created an interest in tessellation, which he called Regular Division of the Plane; this became the title of his 1958 book, complete with reproductions of a series of woodcuts based on tessellations of the plane, in which he described the systematic buildup of mathematical designs in his artworks. He wrote, "Mathematicians have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain".[28]

Study of Regular Division of the Plane with Reptiles
Hexagonal tessellation with animals: Study of Regular Division of the Plane with Reptiles (1939). Escher reused the design in his 1943 lithograph Reptiles.

After his 1936 journey to the Alhambra and to La Mezquita, Cordoba, where he sketched the Moorish architecture and the tessellated mosaic decorations,[29] Escher began to explore the properties and possibilities of tessellation using geometric grids as the basis for his sketches. He then extended these to form complex interlocking designs, for example with animals such as birds, fish, and reptiles.[30] One of his first attempts at a tessellation was his pencil, India ink, and watercolour Study of Regular Division of the Plane with Reptiles (1939), constructed on a hexagonal grid. The heads of the red, green, and white reptiles meet at a vertex; the tails, legs, and sides of the animals interlock exactly. It was used as the basis for his 1943 lithograph Reptiles.[31]

His first study of mathematics began with papers by George Pólya[32] and by the crystallographer Friedrich Haag[33] on plane symmetry groups, sent to him by his brother Berend, a geologist.[34] He carefully studied the 17 canonical wallpaper groups and created periodic tilings with 43 drawings of different types of symmetry.[c] From this point on, he developed a mathematical approach to expressions of symmetry in his artworks using his own notation. Starting in 1937, he created woodcuts based on the 17 groups. His Metamorphosis I (1937) began a series of designs that told a story through the use of pictures. In Metamorphosis I, he transformed convex polygons into regular patterns in a plane to form a human motif. He extended the approach in his piece Metamorphosis III, which is four metres long.[8][35]

In 1941 and 1942, Escher summarized his findings for his own artistic use in a sketchbook, which he labeled (following Haag) Regelmatige vlakverdeling in asymmetrische congruente veelhoeken ("Regular division of the plane with asymmetric congruent polygons").[36] The mathematician Doris Schattschneider unequivocally described this notebook as recording "a methodical investigation that can only be termed mathematical research."[34] She defined the research questions he was following as

(1) What are the possible shapes for a tile that can produce a regular division of the plane, that is, a tile that can fill the plane with its congruent images such that every tile is surrounded in the same manner?
(2) Moreover, in what ways are the edges of such a tile related to each other by isometries?[34]


Escher's Relativity
Multiple viewpoints and impossible stairs: Relativity, 1953

Although Escher did not have mathematical training—his understanding of mathematics was largely visual and intuitive—his art had a strong mathematical component, and several of the worlds that he drew were built around impossible objects. After 1924, Escher turned to sketching landscapes in Italy and Corsica with irregular perspectives that are impossible in natural form. His first print of an impossible reality was Still Life and Street (1937); impossible stairs and multiple visual and gravitational perspectives feature in popular works such as Relativity (1953). House of Stairs (1951) attracted the interest of the mathematician Roger Penrose and his father, the biologist Lionel Penrose. In 1956, they published a paper, "Impossible Objects: A Special Type of Visual Illusion" and later sent Escher a copy. Escher replied, admiring the Penroses' continuously rising flights of steps, and enclosed a print of Ascending and Descending (1960). The paper also contained the tribar or Penrose triangle, which Escher used repeatedly in his lithograph of a building that appears to function as a perpetual motion machine, Waterfall (1961).[37][38][39][40]

Escher was interested enough in Hieronymus Bosch's 1500 triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights to re-create part of its right-hand panel, Hell, as a lithograph in 1935. He reused the figure of a Mediaeval woman in a two-pointed headdress and a long gown in his lithograph Belvedere in 1958; the image is, like many of his other "extraordinary invented places",[41] peopled with "jesters, knaves, and contemplators".[41] Thus, Escher not only was interested in possible or impossible geometry but was, in his own words, a "reality enthusiast";[41] he combined "formal astonishment with a vivid and idiosyncratic vision".[41]

Escher worked primarily in the media of lithographs and woodcuts, although the few mezzotints he made are considered to be masterpieces of the technique. In his graphic art, he portrayed mathematical relationships among shapes, figures, and space. Integrated into his prints were mirror images of cones, spheres, cubes, rings, and spirals.[42]

Escher was also fascinated by mathematical objects such as the Möbius strip, which has only one surface. His wood engraving Möbius Strip II (1963) depicts a chain of ants marching forever over what, at any one place, are the two opposite faces of the object—which are seen on inspection to be parts of the strip's single surface. In Escher's own words:[43]

An endless ring-shaped band usually has two distinct surfaces, one inside and one outside. Yet on this strip nine red ants crawl after each other and travel the front side as well as the reverse side. Therefore the strip has only one surface.[43]

The mathematical influence in his work became prominent after 1936, when, having boldly asked the Adria Shipping Company if he could sail with them as travelling artist in return for making drawings of their ships, they surprisingly agreed, and he sailed the Mediterranean, becoming interested in order and symmetry. Escher described this journey, including his repeat visit to the Alhambra, as "the richest source of inspiration I have ever tapped".[8]

Escher's interest in curvilinear perspective was encouraged by his friend and "kindred spirit",[44] the art historian and artist Albert Flocon, in another example of constructive mutual influence. Flocon identified Escher as a "thinking artist"[44] alongside Piero della Francesca, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Wenzel Jamnitzer, Abraham Bosse, Girard Desargues, and Père Nicon.[44] Flocon was delighted by Escher's Grafiek en tekeningen ("Graphics in Drawing"), which he read in 1959. This stimulated Flocon and André Barre to correspond with Escher and to write the book La Perspective curviligne ("Curvilinear perspective").[45]

Platonic and other solids

Universiteit Twente Mesa Plus Escher Object
Sculpture of a small stellated dodecahedron, as in Escher's 1952 work Gravitation (University of Twente)

Escher often incorporated three-dimensional objects such as the Platonic solids such as spheres, tetrahedrons, and cubes into his works, as well as mathematical objects such as cylinders and stellated polyhedra. In the print Reptiles, he combined two- and three-dimensional images. In one of his papers, Escher emphasized the importance of dimensionality:

The flat shape irritates me—I feel like telling my objects, you are too fictitious, lying there next to each other static and frozen: do something, come off the paper and show me what you are capable of! ... So I make them come out of the plane. ... My objects ... may finally return to the plane and disappear into their place of origin.[46]

Escher's artwork is especially well-liked by mathematicians such as Doris Schattschneider and scientists such as Roger Penrose, who enjoy his use of polyhedra and geometric distortions.[34] For example, in Gravitation, animals climb around a stellated dodecahedron.[47]

The two towers of Waterfall's impossible building are topped with compound polyhedra, one a compound of three cubes, the other a stellated rhombic dodecahedron now known as Escher's solid. Escher had used this solid in his 1948 woodcut Stars, which also contains all five of the Platonic solids and various stellated solids, representing stars; the central solid is animated by chameleons climbing through the frame as it whirls in space. Escher possessed a 6 cm refracting telescope and was a keen-enough amateur astronomer to have recorded observations of binary stars.[48][49][50]

Levels of reality

Escher's artistic expression was created from images in his mind, rather than directly from observations and travels to other countries. His interest in the multiple levels of reality in art is seen in works such as Drawing Hands (1948), where two hands are shown, each drawing the other. The critic Steven Poole commented that

It is a neat depiction of one of Escher's enduring fascinations: the contrast between the two-dimensional flatness of a sheet of paper and the illusion of three-dimensional volume that can be created with certain marks. In Drawing Hands, space and the flat plane coexist, each born from and returning to the other, the black magic of the artistic illusion made creepily manifest.[41]

Infinity and hyperbolic geometry

Schattschneider Reconstruction of Escher's Coxeter Diagram
Doris Schattschneider's reconstruction of the diagram of hyperbolic tiling sent by Escher to the mathematician H. S. M. Coxeter[34]

In 1954, the International Congress of Mathematicians met in Amsterdam, and N. G. de Bruin organized a display of Escher's work at the Stedelijk Museum for the participants. Both Roger Penrose and H. S. M. Coxeter were deeply impressed with Escher's intuitive grasp of mathematics. Inspired by Relativity, Penrose devised his tribar, and his father, Lionel Penrose, devised an endless staircase. Roger Penrose sent sketches of both objects to Escher, and the cycle of invention was closed when Escher then created the perpetual motion machine of Waterfall and the endless march of the monk-figures of Ascending and Descending.[34] In 1957, Coxeter obtained Escher's permission to use two of his drawings in his paper "Crystal symmetry and its generalizations".[34][51] He sent Escher a copy of the paper; Escher recorded that Coxeter's figure of a hyperbolic tessellation "gave me quite a shock": the infinite regular repetition of the tiles in the hyperbolic plane, growing rapidly smaller towards the edge of the circle, was precisely what he wanted to allow him to represent infinity on a two-dimensional plane.[34][52]

Escher Circle Limit III
Hyperbolic tessellation: Circle Limit III, 1959

Escher carefully studied Coxeter's figure, marking it up to analyse the successively smaller circles[d] with which (he deduced) it had been constructed. He then constructed a diagram, which he sent to Coxeter, showing his analysis; Coxeter confirmed it was correct, but disappointed Escher with his highly technical reply. All the same, Escher persisted with hyperbolic tiling, which he called "Coxetering".[34] Among the results were the series of wood engravings Circle Limit I–IV.[34] In 1959, Coxeter published his finding that these works were extraordinarily accurate: "Escher got it absolutely right to the millimeter".[53]


Gevel Escher in Het Paleis 300 dpi
The Escher Museum in The Hague. The poster shows a detail from Day and Night, 1938

Escher's special way of thinking and rich graphics have had a continuous influence in mathematics and art, as well as in popular culture.

In art collections

The Escher intellectual property is controlled by the M.C. Escher Company, while exhibitions of his artworks are managed separately by the M.C. Escher Foundation.[e]

The primary institutional collections of original works by M.C. Escher are the Escher Museum in The Hague; the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC);[56] the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa);[57] the Israel Museum (Jerusalem);[58] and the Huis ten Bosch (Nagasaki, Japan).[59]


Escher Poster Dulwich Picture Gallery 2015
Poster advertising the first major exhibition of Escher's work in Britain (Dulwich Picture Gallery, 14 October 2015 – 17 January 2016). The image is based on Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935.[f]

Despite wide popular interest, Escher was for a long time somewhat neglected in the art world; even in his native Netherlands, he was 70 before a retrospective exhibition was held.[41][g] In the twenty-first century, major exhibitions have been held in cities across the world.[62][63][64] An exhibition of his work in Rio de Janeiro attracted more than 573,000 visitors in 2011;[62] its daily visitor count of 9,677 made it the most visited museum exhibition of the year, anywhere in the world.[65] No major exhibition of Escher's work was held in Britain until 2015, when the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art ran one in Edinburgh from June to September 2015,[63] moving in October 2015 to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.[60] The exhibition moved to Italy in 2015–2016, attracting over 500,000 visitors in Rome and Bologna,[64] and then Milan.[66][67][68]

In mathematics and science

Leeuwarden - Tegeltableau Escher
Wall tableau of one of Escher's bird tessellations at the Princessehof Ceramics Museum in Leeuwarden

Doris Schattschneider identifies 11 strands of mathematical and scientific research anticipated or directly inspired by Escher. These are the classification of regular tilings using the edge relationships of tiles: two-color and two-motif tilings (counterchange symmetry or antisymmetry); color symmetry (in crystallography); metamorphosis or topological change; covering surfaces with symmetric patterns; Escher's algorithm (for generating patterns using decorated squares); creating tile shapes; local versus global definitions of regularity; symmetry of a tiling induced by the symmetry of a tile; orderliness not induced by symmetry groups; the filling of the central void in Escher's lithograph Print Gallery by H. Lenstra and B. de Smit.[34]

The Pulitzer Prize-winning 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter[69] discusses the ideas of self-reference and strange loops, drawing on a wide range of artistic and scientific sources including Escher's art and the music of J. S. Bach.

The asteroid 4444 Escher was named in Escher's honor in 1985.[70]

In popular culture

Escher's fame in popular culture grew when his work was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1966 "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American.[71] Escher's works have appeared on many album covers including The Scaffold's 1969 L the P with Ascending and Descending; Mott the Hoople's eponymous 1969 record with Reptiles, Beaver & Krause's 1970 In A Wild Sanctuary with Three Worlds; and Mandrake Memorial's 1970 Puzzle with House of Stairs and (inside) Curl Up.[h] His works have similarly been used on many book covers, including some editions of Edwin Abbott's Flatland, which used Three Spheres; E. H. Gombrich's Meditations on a Hobby Horse with Horseman; Pamela Hall's Heads You Lose with Plane Filling 1; Patrick A. Horton's Mastering the Power of Story with Drawing Hands; Erich Gamma et al.'s Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-oriented software with Swans; and Arthur Markman's Knowledge Representation with Reptiles.[i] The "World of Escher" markets posters, neckties, T-shirts, and jigsaw puzzles of Escher's artworks.[74] Both Austria and the Netherlands have issued postage stamps commemorating the artist and his works.[12][11]

Selected works

  • Trees, ink (1920)
  • St. Bavo's, Haarlem, ink (1920)
  • Flor de Pascua (The Easter Flower), woodcut/book illustrations (1921)
  • Eight Heads, woodcut (1922)
  • Dolphins also known as Dolphins in Phosphorescent Sea, woodcut (1923)
  • Tower of Babel, woodcut (1928)
  • Street in Scanno, Abruzzi, lithograph (1930)
  • Castrovalva, lithograph (1930)
  • The Bridge, lithograph (1930)
  • Palizzi, Calabria, woodcut (1930)
  • Pentedattilo, Calabria, lithograph (1930)
  • Atrani, Coast of Amalfi, lithograph (1931)
  • Ravello and the Coast of Amalfi, lithograph (1931)
  • Covered Alley in Atrani, Coast of Amalfi, wood engraving (1931)
  • Phosphorescent Sea, lithograph (1933)
  • Still Life with Spherical Mirror, lithograph (1934)
  • Hand with Reflecting Sphere also known as Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror, lithograph (1935)
  • Inside St. Peter's, wood engraving (1935)
  • Portrait of G.A. Escher, lithograph (1935)
  • "Hell", lithograph, (copied from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch) (1935)
  • Regular Division of the Plane, series of drawings that continued until the 1960s (1936)
  • Still Life and Street (his first impossible reality), woodcut (1937)
  • Metamorphosis I, woodcut (1937)
  • Day and Night, woodcut (1938)
  • Cycle, lithograph (1938)
  • Sky and Water I, woodcut (1938)
  • Sky and Water II, lithograph (1938)
  • Metamorphosis II, woodcut (1939–1940)
  • Verbum (Earth, Sky and Water), lithograph (1942)
  • Reptiles, lithograph (1943)
  • Ant, lithograph (1943)
  • Encounter, lithograph (1944)
  • Doric Columns, wood engraving (1945)
  • Balcony, lithograph (1945)
  • Three Spheres I, wood engraving (1945)
  • Magic Mirror, lithograph (1946)
  • Three Spheres II, lithograph (1946)
  • Another World Mezzotint also known as Other World Gallery, mezzotint (1946)
  • Eye, mezzotint (1946)
  • Another World also known as Other World, wood engraving and woodcut (1947)
  • Crystal, mezzotint (1947)
  • Up and Down also known as High and Low, lithograph (1947)
  • Drawing Hands, lithograph (1948)
  • Dewdrop, mezzotint (1948)
  • Stars, wood engraving (1948)
  • Double Planetoid, wood engraving (1949)
  • Order and Chaos (Contrast), lithograph (1950)
  • Rippled Surface, woodcut and linoleum cut (1950)
  • Curl-up, lithograph (1951)
  • House of Stairs, lithograph (1951)
  • House of Stairs II, lithograph (1951)
  • Puddle, woodcut (1952)
  • Gravitation, (1952)
  • Dragon, woodcut lithograph and watercolor (1952)
  • Cubic Space Division, lithograph (1952)
  • Relativity, lithograph (1953)
  • Tetrahedral Planetoid, woodcut (1954)
  • Compass Rose (Order and Chaos II), lithograph (1955)
  • Convex and Concave, lithograph (1955)
  • Three Worlds, lithograph (1955)
  • Print Gallery, lithograph (1956)
  • Mosaic II, lithograph (1957)
  • Cube with Magic Ribbons, lithograph (1957)
  • Belvedere, lithograph (1958)
  • Sphere Spirals, woodcut (1958)
  • Circle Limit III, woodcut (1959)
  • Ascending and Descending, lithograph (1960)
  • Waterfall, lithograph (1961)
  • Möbius Strip II (Red Ants), woodcut (1963)
  • Knot, pencil and crayon (1966)
  • Metamorphosis III, woodcut (1967–1968)
  • Snakes, woodcut (1969)

See also


  1. ^ "We named him Maurits Cornelis after S.'s [Sara's] beloved uncle Van Hall, and called him 'Mauk' for short ...", Diary of Escher's father, quoted in M. C. Escher: His Life and Complete Graphic Work, Abradale Press, 1981, p. 9.
  2. ^ The circled cross at the top of the image may indicate that the drawing is inverted, as can be seen by comparison with the photograph; the neighbouring image has a circled cross at the bottom. It is likely that Escher turned the drawing block, as convenient, while holding it in his hand in the Alhambra.
  3. ^ Escher made it clear that he did not understand the abstract concept of a group, but he did grasp the nature of the 17 wallpaper groups in practice.[8]
  4. ^ Schattschneider notes that Coxeter observed in March 1964 that the white arcs in Circle Limit III "were not, as he and others had assumed, badly rendered hyperbolic lines but rather were branches of equidistant curves."[34]
  5. ^ In 1969, Escher's business advisor, Jan W. Vermeulen, author of a biography on the artist, established the M.C. Escher Foundation, and transferred into this entity virtually all of Escher's unique work as well as hundreds of his original prints. These works were lent by the Foundation to the Hague Museum. Upon Escher's death, his three sons dissolved the Foundation, and they became partners in the ownership of the art works. In 1980, this holding was sold to an American art dealer and the Hague Museum. The Museum obtained all of the documentation and the smaller portion of the art works. The copyrights remained the possession of Escher's three sons – who later sold them to Cordon Art, a Dutch company. Control was subsequently transferred to The M.C. Escher Company B.V. of Baarn, Netherlands, which licenses use of the copyrights on all of Escher's art and on his spoken and written text. A related entity, the M.C. Escher Foundation of Baarn, promotes Escher's work by organizing exhibitions, publishing books and producing films about his life and work.[54][55]
  6. ^ The poster for the exhibition is based on Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935, which shows Escher in his house reflected in a handheld sphere, thus illustrating the artist, his interest in levels of reality in art (e.g., is the hand in the foreground more real than the reflected one?), perspective, and spherical geometry.[23][60][61]
  7. ^ Steven Poole comments "The artist [Escher] who created some of the most memorable images of the 20th century was never fully embraced by the art world."[41]
  8. ^ These and further albums are listed by Coulthart.[72]
  9. ^ These and further books are listed by Bailey.[73]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Chronology". World of Escher. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
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  3. ^ a b Bryden, Barbara E. (2005). Sundial: Theoretical Relationships Between Psychological Type, Talent, And Disease. Gainesville, Fla: Center for Applications of Psychological Type. ISBN 978-0-935652-46-8.
  4. ^ a b c Locher, 1974. p. 5
  5. ^ Locher, 1974. p. 17
  6. ^ Roza, Greg (2005). An Optical Artist: Exploring Patterns and Symmetry. Rosen Classroom. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-4042-5117-5.
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  9. ^ Ernst, Bruno, The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher, Taschen, 1978; p. 15
  10. ^ "Aircraft over the Netherlands". Stamp catalogue. Colnect.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  11. ^ a b Hathaway, Dale K. (2015-11-17). "Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898 - 1972)". Olivet Nazarene University. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  12. ^ a b "M.C. Escher stamps". Stamp catalogue. Colnect.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  13. ^ Escher, M. C. (1989). Escher on Escher: Exploring the Infinite. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-2414-7.
  14. ^ "Timeline". Escher in het Paleis. Retrieved 14 March 2018.
  15. ^ Locher, 1974. p. 151
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  17. ^ Cucker, Felipe (25 April 2013). Manifold Mirrors: The Crossing Paths of the Arts and Mathematics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-0-521-42963-4.
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  19. ^ M.C. Escher, Netherlands Institute for Art History, 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  20. ^ M.C. Escher, Vorstelijk Baarn. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  21. ^ a b Locher, 1974. p. 13
  22. ^ Locher, 1974. pp. 11–12
  23. ^ a b "M.C. Escher — Life and Work". The Collection, National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Retrieved 1 November 2015. Escher and the interior of his studio in Rome are reflected in the mirrored sphere that he holds in his hand. Escher's preoccupation with mirrored reflections and visual illusion belongs to a tradition of northern European art established in the fifteenth century.
  24. ^ a b Altdorfer, John. "Inside A Fantastical Mind". Carnegie Museums. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  25. ^ McStay, Chantal (15 August 2014). "Oneiric Architecture and Opium". The Paris Review. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  26. ^ Mansfield, 28 June 2015 (28 June 2015). "Escher, the master of impossible art". The Scotsman. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  27. ^ Locher, 1974. pp. 62–63
  28. ^ Master the GRE 2013. Peterson's. 2012. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7689-3681-0.
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  30. ^ Locher, 1974. pp. 79–85
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  32. ^ Pólya, G. (1924). "Über die Analogie der Kristallsymmetrie in der Ebene". Zeitschrift für Kristallographie (in German). 60: 278–282. doi:10.1524/zkri.1924.60.1.278.
  33. ^ Haag, Friedrich (1911). "Die regelmäßigen Planteilungen" (PDF). Zeitschrift für Kristallographie (in German). 49: 360–369. doi:10.1524/zkri.1911.49.1.360.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Schattschneider, Doris (2010). "The Mathematical Side of M. C. Escher" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 57 (6): 706–718.
  35. ^ Locher, 1974. p. 84
  36. ^ Barry Cipra (1998). Paul Zorn, ed. What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Volume 4. American Mathematical Society. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-8218-0766-8.
  37. ^ Seckel, Al (2004). Masters of Deception: Escher, Dalí & the Artists of Optical Illusion. Sterling. pp. 81–94, 262. ISBN 978-1-4027-0577-9. Chapter 5 is on Escher.
  38. ^ Penrose, L.S.; Penrose, R. (1958). "Impossible objects: A special type of visual illusion". British Journal of Psychology. 49 (1): 31–33. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1958.tb00634.x. PMID 13536303.
  39. ^ Kirousis, Lefteris M.; Papadimitriou, Christos H. (1985). The complexity of recognizing polyhedral scenes. 26th Annual Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS 1985). pp. 175–185. CiteSeerX doi:10.1109/sfcs.1985.59. ISBN 978-0-8186-0644-1.
  40. ^ Cooper, Martin (2008). "Tractability of Drawing Interpretation". Line Drawing Interpretation. Springer-Verlag. pp. 217–230. doi:10.1007/978-1-84800-229-6_9. ISBN 978-1-84800-229-6.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g Poole, Steven (20 June 2015). "The impossible world of MC Escher". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  42. ^ "The Official M.C. Escher Website – Biography". Retrieved 7 December 2013.
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  44. ^ a b c Emmer, Michele; Schattschneider, Doris; Ernst, Bruno (2007). M.C. Escher's Legacy: A Centennial Celebration. Springer. pp. 10–16. ISBN 978-3-540-28849-7.
  45. ^ Flocon, Albert; Barre, André (1968). La Perspective curviligne. Flammarion.
  46. ^ Emmer, Michele; Schattschneider, Doris (2007). M.C. Escher's Legacy: A Centennial Celebration. Springer. pp. 182–183. ISBN 978-3-540-28849-7.
  47. ^ Hargittai, István (23 May 2014). Symmetry: Unifying Human Understanding. Elsevier Science. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-4831-4952-3.
  48. ^ Locher, 1974. p. 104
  49. ^ Beech, Martin. "Escher's Stars". Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 86: 169–177.
  50. ^ Coxeter, H. S. M. (1985). "A special book review: M. C. Escher: His life and complete graphic work". The Mathematical Intelligencer. 7 (1): 59–69. doi:10.1007/BF03023010.
  51. ^ Coxeter, H. S. M. Coxeter (June 1957). "Crystal symmetry and its generalizations". A Symposium on Symmetry, Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada. 51 (3, section 3): 1–13.
  52. ^ Malkevitch, Joseph. "Mathematics and Art. 4. Mathematical artists and artist mathematicians". American Mathematical Society. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
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  58. ^ "May 2013 (newsletter)". Israel Museum Jerusalem. Archived from the original on 5 July 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  59. ^ "M. C. Escher" (in Japanese). Huis Ten Bosch Museum, Nagasaki. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  60. ^ a b "The Amazing World of M.C. Escher". Dulwich Picture Gallery. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  61. ^ "Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935". The Collection, National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Archived from the original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  62. ^ a b "Exhibition of works by Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher opens at Soestdijk Palace in Baarn". Artdaily. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  63. ^ a b "The Amazing World of M.C. Escher". National Galleries Scotland. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  64. ^ a b "Escher. Santa Caterina Complex". Italy Traveller Guide. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  65. ^ "Top-attended museum show of 2011 is a surprise; also L.A. numbers". Los Angeles Times. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2015. The exhibition was ranked No. 1 based on daily visitors. It saw 9,677 visitors a day, according to the Art Newspaper.
  66. ^ "Mostra Escher Milano".
  67. ^ "Chiostro del Bramante, Rome". Archived from the original on 8 October 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  68. ^ "National Gallery of Canada". Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  69. ^ Hofstadter, Douglas R. (1999) [1979], Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Basic Books, ISBN 978-0-465-02656-2
  70. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2012). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. p. 359. ISBN 978-3-642-29718-2.
  71. ^ "Ignited by Martin Gardner, Ian Stewart Continues to Illuminate". The New York Times. 27 October 2014. It was Martin Gardner who was instrumental in spreading the awareness and understanding of Escher’s work
  72. ^ Coulthart, John (2013-02-07). "MC Escher album covers". Archived from the original on 17 February 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  73. ^ Bailey, David. "M. C. Escher Miscellany". Archived from the original on 8 May 2017.
  74. ^ "M.C. Escher: An Artist for the Web". The New York Times. 28 September 2000. Retrieved 7 November 2015.

Further reading


  • Ernst, Bruno; Escher, M. C. (1995). The Magic Mirror of M. C. Escher. Taschen America. ISBN 978-1-886155-00-8.
  • Escher, M. C. (1971). The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher. Ballantine.
  • Locher, J. L. (1971). The World of M. C. Escher. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-451-79961-6.
  • Locher, J. L. (1981). M. C. Escher: His Life and Complete Graphic Work. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-8113-3.
  • Schattschneider, Doris; Walker, Wallace (1987). M. C. Escher Kaleidocycles. Pomegranate Communications. ISBN 978-0-906212-28-8.
  • Schattschneider, Doris (2004). M. C. Escher : Visions of Symmetry. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-4308-7.
  • Schattschneider, Doris; Emmer, Michele, eds. (2003). M. C. Escher's Legacy: a Centennial Celebration. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-540-42458-1.
  • Veldhuysen, W. F. (2006). The Magic of M. C. Escher. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-51289-0.


  • Escher, M. C. The Fantastic World of M. C. Escher, Video collection of examples of the development of his art, and interviews, Director, Michele Emmer.

External links

Ascending and Descending

Ascending and Descending is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher first printed in March 1960.

The original print measures 14 in × 11 1⁄4 in (35.6 cm × 28.6 cm). The lithograph depicts a large building roofed by a never-ending staircase. Two lines of identically dressed men appear on the staircase, one line ascending while the other descends. Two figures sit apart from the people on the endless staircase: one in a secluded courtyard, the other on a lower set of stairs. While most two-dimensional artists use relative proportions to create an illusion of depth, Escher here and elsewhere uses conflicting proportions to create the visual paradox.Ascending and Descending was influenced by, and is an artistic implementation of, the Penrose stairs, an impossible object; Lionel Penrose had first published his concept in the February 1958 issue of the British Journal of Psychology. Escher developed the theme further in his print Waterfall, which appeared in 1961.The two concentric processions on the stairs use enough people to emphasise the lack of vertical rise and fall. In addition, the shortness of the tunics worn by the people makes it clear that some are stepping up and some are stepping down.

The structure is embedded in human activity. By showing an unaccountable ritual of what Escher calls an 'unknown' sect, Escher has added an air of mystery to the people who ascend and descend the stairs. Therefore, the stairs themselves tend to become incorporated into that mysterious appearance.

There are 'free' people and Escher said of these: 'recalcitrant individuals refuse, for the time being, to take part in the exercise of treading the stairs. They have no use for it at all, but no doubt, sooner or later they will be brought to see the error of their non-conformity.'

Escher suggests that not only the labours, but the very lives of these monk-like people are carried out in an inescapable, coercive and bizarre environment. Another possible source for the people's looks is the Dutch idiom "a monk's job", which refers to a long and repetitive working activity with absolutely no practical purposes or results, and, by extension, to something completely useless.

Two earlier Escher pictures that feature stairs are House of Stairs and Relativity.

Belvedere (M. C. Escher)

Belvedere is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, first printed in May 1958. It shows a plausible-looking belvedere building that is an impossible object, modelled after an impossible cube.

Castrovalva (M. C. Escher)

Castrovalva is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, first printed in February 1930. Like many of Escher's early works, it depicts a place that he visited on a tour of Italy.

It depicts the Abruzzo village of Castrovalva, which lies at the top of a sheer slope. The perspective is toward the northwest, from the narrow trail on the left which, at the point from which this view is seen, makes a hairpin turn to the right, descending to the valley. In the foreground at the side of the trail, there are several flowering plants, grasses, ferns, a beetle and a snail. In the expansive valley below there are cultivated fields and two more towns, the nearest of which is Anversa degli Abruzzi, with Casale in the distance.

Circle Limit III

Circle Limit III is a woodcut made in 1959 by Dutch artist M. C. Escher, in which "strings of fish shoot up like rockets from infinitely far away" and then "fall back again whence they came".It is one of a series of four woodcuts by Escher depicting ideas from hyperbolic geometry. Dutch physicist and mathematician Bruno Ernst called it "the best of the four".

Dolphins (M. C. Escher)

Dolphins also known as a Dolphins in Phosphorescent Sea is a woodcut print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher. This work was first printed in February, 1923. Escher had been fascinated by the glowing outlines of ocean waves breaking at night and this image depicts the outlines made by a school of dolphins swimming and breaching ahead of the bow of a ship. The glow was created by bioluminescent dinoflagellates.

Dragon (M. C. Escher)

Dragon (Dutch: Draak) is a wood engraving print created by Dutch artist M. C. Escher in April 1952, depicting a folded paper dragon perched on a pile of crystals. It is part of a sequence of images by Escher depicting objects of ambiguous dimension, including also Three Spheres I, Doric Columns, Drawing Hands and Print Gallery.Escher wrote "this dragon is an obstinate beast, and in spite of his two-dimensions he persists in assuming that he has three". Two slits in the paper from which the dragon is folded open up like kirigami, forming holes that make the dragon's two-dimensional nature apparent. His head and neck pokes through one slit, and the tail through the other, with the head biting the tail in the manner of the ouroboros.In Gödel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter interprets the dragon's tail-bite as an image of self-reference, and his inability to become truly three-dimensional as a visual metaphor for a lack of transcendence, the inability to "jump out of the system". The same image has also been called out in the scientific literature as a warning about what can happen when one attempts to describe four-dimensional space-time using higher dimensions.A copy of this print is in the collections of U.S. National Gallery of Art and the National Gallery of Canada.

Gravitation (M. C. Escher)

Gravitation (also known as Gravity) is a mixed media work by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher completed in June 1952. It was first printed as a black-and-white lithograph and then coloured by hand in watercolour.

It depicts a nonconvex regular polyhedron known as the small stellated dodecahedron. Each facet of the figure has a trapezoidal doorway. Out of these doorways protrude the heads and legs of twelve turtles without shells, who are using the object as a common shell. The turtles are in six coloured pairs (red, orange, yellow, magenta, green and indigo) with each turtle directly opposite its counterpart.

Hand with Reflecting Sphere

Hand with Reflecting Sphere also known as Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror is a lithograph print by Dutch artist M. C. Escher, first printed in January 1935. The piece depicts a hand holding a reflective sphere. In the reflection, most of the room around Escher can be seen, and the hand holding the sphere is revealed to be Escher’s.

Self-portraits in reflective, spherical surfaces are common in Escher’s work, and this image is the most prominent and famous example. In much of his self-portraiture of this type, Escher is in the act of drawing the sphere, whereas in this image he is seated and gazing into it. On the walls there are several framed pictures, one of which appears to be of an Indonesian shadow puppet.

M. C. Escher in popular culture

There are numerous references to famous Dutch painter M.C. Escher, in popular culture.

Magic Mirror (M. C. Escher)

Magic Mirror is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher first printed in January, 1946.

It depicts a mirror standing vertically on wooden supports on a tiled surface. The perspective is looking down at an angle at the right hand side of the mirror. There is a sphere at each side of the mirror. The main focus of the image is a procession of small griffin (winged lion) sculptures that emerge from the surface of the mirror and trail away from it in single file. Both the angular reflection of the tiles and the offset between the reflection of the sphere in front of the mirror and the sphere behind it prove it is a mirror. Yet the reflection of the griffin procession continues to emerge from behind the mirror. The griffin processions of both sides loop around to the front and enter a tessellated pattern on the tile surface.

Print Gallery (M. C. Escher)

Print Gallery (Dutch: Prentententoonstelling) is a lithograph printed in 1956 by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher. It depicts a man in a gallery viewing a print of a seaport, and among the buildings in the seaport is the very gallery in which he is standing, making use of the Droste effect with visual recursion. The lithograph has attracted discussion in both mathematical and artistic contexts.

Puddle (M. C. Escher)

Puddle is a woodcut print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, first printed in February 1952.

Since 1936, Escher’s work had become primarily focused on paradoxes, tessellation and other abstract visual concepts. This print, however, is a realistic depiction of a simple image that portrays two perspectives at once. It depicts an unpaved road with a large pool of water in the middle of it at twilight. Turning the print upside-down and focusing strictly on the reflection in the water, it becomes a depiction of a forest with a full moon overhead. The road is soft and muddy and in it there are two distinctly different sets of tire tracks, two sets of footprints going in opposite directions and two bicycle tracks. Escher has thus captured three elements: the water, sky and earth.

Regular Division of the Plane

Regular Division of the Plane is a series of drawings by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher which began in 1936. These images are based on the principle of tessellation, irregular shapes or combinations of shapes that interlock completely to cover a surface or plane.The inspiration for these works began in 1936 with a visit to the Alhambra, a fourteenth-century Moorish castle near Granada, Spain. Escher had visited the Alhambra once before in 1922 but in this visit he had spent several days studying and sketching the ornate tile designs there.In 1958 Escher published his book The Regular Division of the Plane. This book included several woodcut prints to demonstrate the concept, but the series of drawings continued until the late 1960s, ending at drawing #137. While not Escher’s most artistically important works, some of these patterns are among Escher's most famous, having been used for a number of commercial products, including neckties.

Relativity (M. C. Escher)

Relativity is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, first printed in December 1953. The first version of this work was a woodcut earlier that same year.

It depicts a world in which the normal laws of gravity do not apply. The architectural structure seems to be the centre of an idyllic community, with most of its inhabitants casually going about their ordinary business, such as dining. There are windows and doorways leading to park-like outdoor settings. All of the figures are dressed in identical attire and have featureless bulb-shaped heads. Identical characters such as these can be found in many other Escher works.

In the world of Relativity, there are three sources of gravity, each being orthogonal to the two others. Each inhabitant lives in one of the gravity wells, where normal physical laws apply. There are sixteen characters, spread between each gravity source, six in one and five each in the other two. The apparent confusion of the lithograph print comes from the fact that the three gravity sources are depicted in the same space.

The structure has seven stairways, and each stairway can be used by people who belong to two different gravity sources. This creates interesting phenomena, such as in the top stairway, where two inhabitants use the same stairway in the same direction and on the same side, but each using a different face of each step; thus, one descends the stairway as the other climbs it, even while moving in the same direction nearly side-by-side. In the other stairways, inhabitants are depicted as climbing the stairways upside-down, but based on their own gravity source, they are climbing normally.

Each of the three parks belongs to one of the gravity wells. All but one of the doors seem to lead to basements below the parks. Though physically possible, such basements are certainly unusual and add to the surreal effect of the picture.

This is one of Escher’s most popular works and has been used in a variety of ways.

Reptiles (M. C. Escher)

Reptiles is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher first printed in March 1943.

It depicts a desk upon which is a 2D drawing of a tessellated pattern of reptiles and hexagons. The reptiles at one edge of the drawing emerge into three dimensional reality, come to life and appear to crawl over a series of symbolic objects (a book on nature, a geometers triangle, a three dimensional/pentagonal dodecahedron, a pewter bowl containing a box of matches and a box of cigarettes) to eventually re-enter the drawing at its opposite edge. Other objects on the desk that may also be symbolic are a potted cactus and yucca, a ceramic flask with a cork stopper next to a small glass of liquid, a book of JOB cigarette rolling papers, and an open handwritten note book of many pages. Although only the size of small lizards, the reptiles have protruding crocodile-like fangs, and the one atop the dodecahedron has a dragon-like puff of smoke billowing from its nostrils.

Like many of Escher's works, the meaning of the imagery is enigmatic. There are, however, a number of scholarly interpretations of the work. One is that the lizard represents man, emerging from pure concept in two dimensions, becoming a three dimensional being, groping through life acquiring knowledge and wisdom, arriving at deep understanding of science and sacred geometric principals and the alchemical/spiritual nature of reality and existence, and finally descending to reunion with the realm of pure concept. In this theory the objects around the edge of the drawing are signals of the stages of emergence (cactus, biological life), the beginning of the fire-quest for knowledge (rolling papers), contemplation and distillation (a jug and partially consumed glass of spirits), deep study, understanding and wisdom (the open well-used notebook), and re-integration (matches and cigarettes symbolizing controlled/civilized fire that nonetheless consumes and returns the physical to the abstract).

Once a woman telephoned Escher and told him that she thought the image was a "striking illustration of reincarnation".

Snakes (M. C. Escher)

Snakes is a woodcut print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher first printed in July 1969.

It depicts a disc made up of interlocking circles that grow progressively smaller towards the center and towards the edge. There are three snakes laced through the edge of the disc.

Snakes has rotational symmetry of order 3, comprising a single wedge-shaped image repeated three times in a circle. This means that it was printed from three blocks that were rotated on a pin to make three impressions each. Close inspection reveals the central mark left by the pin. The image is printed in three colours: green, brown and black. In several earlier works Escher explored the limits of infinitesimal size and infinite number, for example the Circle Limit series, by actually carrying through the rendering of smaller and smaller figures to the smallest possible sizes. By contrast, in Snakes, the infinite diminution of size – and infinite increase in number – is only suggested in the finished work. Nevertheless, the print shows very clearly how this rendering would have been carried out to the limits of human visibility.

This was Escher’s last print.

Fredrik Ullén used this print for the cover of his 1998 album György Ligeti: Complete Piano Music, Volume 2.

Stars (M. C. Escher)

Stars is a wood engraving print created by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher in 1948, depicting two chameleons in a polyhedral cage floating through space.

Although the compound of three octahedra used for the central cage in Stars had been studied before in mathematics, it was most likely invented independently for this image by Escher without reference to those studies. Escher used similar compound polyhedral forms in several other works, including Crystal (1947), Study for Stars (1948), Double Planetoid (1949), and Waterfall (1961).

The design for Stars was likely influenced by Escher's own interest in both geometry and astronomy, by a long history of using geometric forms to model the heavens, and by a drawing style used by Leonardo da Vinci. Commentators have interpreted the cage's compound shape as a reference to double and triple stars in astronomy, or to twinned crystals in crystallography. The image contrasts the celestial order of its polyhedral shapes with the more chaotic forms of biology.

Prints of Stars belong to the permanent collections of major museums including the Rijksmuseum, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Gallery of Canada.

Three Worlds (Escher)

Three Worlds is a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher first printed in December 1955.

Three Worlds depicts a large pool or lake during the autumn or winter months, the title referring to the three visible perspectives in the picture: the surface of the water on which leaves float, the world above the surface, observable by the water's reflection of a forest, and the world below the surface, observable in the large fish swimming just below the water's surface.

Escher also created a picture named Two Worlds.

Waterfall (M. C. Escher)

Waterfall (Dutch: Waterval) is a lithograph by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, first printed in October 1961. It shows a perpetual motion machine where water from the base of a waterfall appears to run downhill along the water path before reaching the top of the waterfall.

While most two-dimensional artists use relative proportions to create an illusion of depth, Escher here and elsewhere uses conflicting proportions to create a visual paradox. The watercourse supplying the waterfall (its aqueduct or leat) has the structure of two Penrose triangles. A Penrose triangle is an impossible object designed by Oscar Reutersvärd in 1934, and found independently by Roger Penrose in 1958.

M. C. Escher
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