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The Warped and Twisted Art of M.C. Escher


There is something really special about the art of M.C. Escher which catches the attention of millions, spanning generations. Not only did he have a particularly nuanced eye, he had a unique way of looking at the amazing world around us. His fascination with math and geometry is an integral part of everything he produced. It’s not hard to tell that he was particularly interested in the concept of recursion. Computer scientists are real familiar with using functions that call themselves from within their own code. Like looking in a mirror with a Möbius twist.

Maurits Cornelis Escher

Escher preferred to abbreviate down to his first two initials but his last name has become iconic. Born in 1898 in the dutch city of Leeuwarden, by the time he passed away in 1972 he had gathered millions of fans and a reputation as “one of the world’s most famous graphic artists.

According to his official biography, the fourth and youngest son spent most of his youth in the Arnhem region, until he flunked out of school. He may not have been good at tests but he was nowhere near a failure.

After he has failed his final exam, and after a short interlude in Delft, M.C. Escher starts with his lessons in architecture at the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem.” He quit after a week.


His dad wasn’t happy when M.C. said he wanted to be an artist. He got support from his teacher, though, who convinced everyone that he had some serious talent. He showed teacher Samuel Jesserun de Mesquita his drawings and linocuts. The rest is history.

Finally free of school, Escher spent time wandering through Italy where he hooked up with Jetta Umiker and married her in 1924. They soon left for Rome and lived there happily until 1935. During the 11 years in Rome, he established his studio and turned drawings and sketches into lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings.

One example is the 1952 woodcut “Puddle” which reflects the trees of his Italian surroundings. That was when he began creating “more realistic works such as the Castrovalva litho in which one can see already his fascination for perspective: close, far, high and low.

Impossible drawings

One of the things about Escher drawings is the way he shreds the laws of physics. “He is most famous for his so-called impossible drawings, such as Ascending and Descending and Relativity, but also for his metamorphoses, such as Metamorphosis I, II and III, Air and Water I and Reptiles.

Water running uphill without effort and similar strange loops are found in many of his creations.

By the end of his lifetime, “Escher made 448 lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings and more than 2000 drawings and sketches.” You can see the official gallery here. Like “some of his famous predecessors – Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dürer and Holbein – Escher is left-handed.


On the side and to pick up a few extra bucks, M.C. illustrated books and designed carpet patterns. His engravings were used for banknotes and stamps. He even did a few murals.

Escher is obviously “fascinated by the regular geometric figures of the wall and floor mosaics in the Alhambra, a fourteenth-century castle in Granada, Spain.” Once he saw it in 1922 he was hooked and had to go back in 1936.

During his years in Switzerland and throughout the Second World War, he works with great energy on his hobby. He then makes 62 of the 137 symmetrical drawings he will make in his life. He also expands his hobby by using these symmetrical drawings for cutting wooden balls.” He also loves to play “with architecture, perspective and impossible spaces.” which is why his “art continues to amaze and wonder millions of people around the world.

What do you think?

Written by Staff Editor

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