A Twisted Mind: The Brilliant Graphic Motifs of M.C. Escher

From impossible scales to tessellations made of birds, M.C. Escher created a graphical lexicon of distortions, interconnected geometric patterns and mathematical concepts. Dense, articulated, and structured based on complex principles, his work appears decorative and fanciful, juggling between optical illusions and the limits of sensory perception. For the scientifically inclined, Escher is a puzzle. For those experimenting with psychedlics, he was the pioneer of far-out art.  But to all of us his art is instantly recognizable.  And is there anyone not captivated by it?


Born in the Netherlands at the dawn of the 20th century, Escher initially did works on the natural environment, regularly exhibiting his first works in the Netherlands and obtaining good feedback also internationally. But it was in the 1920s on the occasion of a visit to the Alhambra palace in Spain, that he discovered his true calling. While he was intent on making sketches reproducing the motifs of the Moorish architecture of the palace, Escher was captivated by the interdependence of the forms placed side by side or placed one inside of the other. 


Making mainly lithographs and wood engravings, Escher went on to explore the relationships between forms, figures, and space with almost obsessive dedication. He was fond of bizarre viewpoints, multiple perspectives, the transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional illusion, and was fascinated by mathematical puzzles such as the Moebius strip, a ring that writhes upon itself in an apparently physically impossible manner. Observing his works means entering Escher’s brilliant mind, where a floor becomes a ceiling, fish take flight and become birds, reptile drawings come to life and crawl off the page. In Escher’s mind there are ideas with nothing to do with graphic art, thoughts that cannot be expressed in words, typical mental images, intelligible to others only through the visual image.

“I consider my job the most beautiful of all and also the ugliest,” he often said.

The official site for all things Escher is at https://mcescher.com/.  The Carl Kruse Art Blog also has an expose of the artist here.

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