Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maurits C. Escher

Print Gallery
Fair use

In 1956, in a letter to his son, Escher wrote about the Print Gallery: "The odd print I told you about last time is finished, though not yet printed. I don't think I have ever done anything as peculiar in my life. Among other things, it shows a young man looking with interest at a print on the wall of an exhibition that features himself. How can this be? Perhaps I am not far removed from Einstein's curved universe".

M. C. Escher (1898-1972), graphic artist born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, is known for his repeating patterns of interlocking motifs, tessellations of the Euclidean and the hyperbolic plane and his drawing representing impossible figures. Without having any mathematical knowledge, he managed to represent many mathematical concepts belonging to non-Euclidean geometry and many of his drawings are used by mathematicians to illustrate examples.

He had an ability to visualize distinct spatial patterns from childhood, and, though not faring well in much of his earlier studies, he attended Haarlem's School for Architectural and Decorative Arts. There, he decided to take up graphic arts under the recommendation of his mentor. His earlier work included nudes and innovative portraiture captured in woodcuts, linoleum cuts and lithographs.

He traveled to the Mediterranean in the early 1920s and was profoundly influenced by the wonders of the Moor-designed Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Establishing a home in Rome with his family, he worked on engravings and prints that captured natural landscapes and architecture, startlingly playing with perspective, orientation and shadow.

With the rise of fascism in Italy, he relocated to Switzerland in 1935, though he soon took a maritime journey to Spain, returning to Alhambra Palace and visiting La Mezquita ("Mosque") of Cordoba as well. He was inspired by the structures' complex designs, and further focused his work on tessellation and repeating patterns, often featuring overlapping, interlocked images morphing into something else. He moved to Belgium in 1937, but with the invasion of Nazi forces, left for Holland in 1941. He continued to create eye-opening dreamscape work. In addition to eventually becoming a lauded international artist with mounted exhibitions, he was embraced by mathematicians and scientists, as much of his heavily researched, precise output embodied or explored concepts around geometry, logic, space and infinity.

His work went almost unnoticed until the 1950’s, but by 1956 he had given his first important exhibition, was written up in Time magazine, and acquired a world-wide reputation. Among his greatest admirers were mathematicians, who recognized in his work an extraordinary visualization of mathematical principles. He died in 1972, in Laren, Netherlands, leaving a legacy of more than 2,000 pieces.