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The Art Story Homepage Artists M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher

Dutch Printmaker, Draftsman, and Illustrator

M.C. Escher Photo
Movements and Styles: Op Art, Surrealism, Expressionism

Born: June 17, 1898 - Leeuwarden, Netherlands

Died: March 27, 1972 - Laren, North Holland, Netherlands

"I am always wandering around in enigmas."

M.C. Escher Signature

Summary of M.C. Escher

Escher broke down the boundaries between art and science by combining complicated mathematics with precise draftsmanship and an eye for the unusual. His work is a combination of intricate realism and fantasy. He is most famous for his 'impossible constructions', images which utilize mathematical shapes, architecture, and perspective to create a visual enigma, but he also produced subtle and original work drawing inspiration from the Italian landscape. Most of Escher's art was produced as prints - lithographs or woodcuts and its appearance and subject matter was quite unique at a time when abstract art was the norm.

Key Ideas

Despite not having a formal mathematical training, Escher had an intuitive and nuanced understanding of the discipline. He used geometry to create many of his images and incorporated mathematical forms into others. Additionally, some of his prints provide visual metaphors for abstract concepts particularly that of infinity, the depiction of which Escher became interested in later in his career. During his lifetime Escher kept abreast of current ideas in the field and corresponded with several eminent mathematicians on the subjects of interconnecting and impossible shapes incorporating their ideas directly into his work.
Escher highlighted the contradiction of representing three dimensional objects on a two-dimensional plane and this is particularly clear in images such as Drawing Hands (1948) in which two hands (seemingly simultaneously) engage in the paradoxical act of drawing each other into existence.
As an artist Escher worked alone and was not affiliated to any particular group even to Surrealism to which his images are closest in spirit. His work had an impact on the development of Op Art, but he rejected any association with the movement stating that "there are young people who constantly come to tell me: you, too, are making Op Art. I haven't the slightest idea what that is, Op Art. I've been doing this work for thirty years now".
Escher worked with three main printing techniques woodcuts, lithography and mezzotints. The process to create his detailed and precise images was time-consuming and required a great deal of skill and manual dexterity. Over the course of his 60 year career he produced a total of 448 prints, an average of only seven or eight a year.
M.C. Escher Photo

Maurits Cornelis Escher, known as 'Mauk' by his family was the fifth and youngest child of Sarah and George Escher. He had a comfortable middle-class childhood and his memories from this period were happy ones. In 1903, the family relocated to the city of Arnheim where Escher attended school, an experience that he disliked intensely. Despite being a time which Escher would later refer to as a 'hell', he found some comfort in drawing classes where he began to sketch and learn linocuts. Although he was not an exceptional student his devotion to art was apparent and by 1917, along with his close friend Bas Kist, he was already printing some of his works in the artist Gert Stegeman's studio.

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