Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Twisted Reality of M.C. Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898 –1972) was a graphic artist whose mathematically-inspired prints have been insanely popular for decades.I have always found his work technically perfect, and driven by a warped sense of reality - at least what he chooses to show his viewers. His mind-bending compositions are so complex, but they let us defy the gravity of our existence to go crawl around in his. Let's take a look at this topsy-turvy master printmaker.
Born in Leeuwarden, Friesland, his family moved to Arnhem in 1903, where he attended school until 1918. He was a sickly child, and was placed in a special school at the age of seven. In 1918, he went to the Technical College of Delft. From 1919 to 1922, he attended the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts; briefly studied architecture, but settled on studying decorative arts.

In 1922, Escher traveled through Italy and Spain. He was impressed by the Moorish architecture with its intricate designs, especially those found at the fourteenth-century Alhambra. Its designs had geometrical symmetries featuring interlocking repetitive patterns in the colored tiles, and sculpted into the walls and ceilings. This experience infused Escher’s interest in mathematics and tessellation.
The sketches he made of the Alhambra and the Mezquita, the Moorish mosque of Cordoba, had a career-long influence upon his work with geometric forms, unusual perspective, and multiple points of view.He lived in Rome from 1923 to 1935, where he met and married Jetta Umiker. The couple settled in Rome and raised three sons. In 1935, the political climate in Italy became unacceptable to Escher. World War II forced him to move in 1941, to the Netherlands, where he lived until 1970. Most of his best-known works date from this period.
In July 1969 he finished his last work, 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. The image exhibits Escher's love of symmetry, interlocking patterns, and his approach to death. In 1970, Escher moved to an artists' retirement home and maintained his own studio until his death in 1972. He is buried at the New Cemetery in Baarn.
Escher's work is mathematical and considered cerebral. Escher is not the first artist to explore mathematical themes: Parmigianino, William Hogarth, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi also experimented with mathematics in their work. Cubism and Surrealism had affinity with Escher’s work, but he did not embrace their movements.
In his early years, Escher sketched landscapes and nature. His early love of landscapes and nature created an interest in tessellation, which he called Regular Division of the Plane; this became the title of his 1958 book, where he described the systematic buildup of mathematical designs in his artworks. He began to explore the properties and possibilities of tessellation using geometric grids as the basis for his sketches. Although he did not have mathematical training—his understanding of mathematics was largely visual and intuitive.
Escher worked primarily in the printmaking media. In his graphic art, he portrayed mathematical relationships among shapes, figures and space. He was a "thinking artist" like Piero della Francesca, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albrecht Dürer. He often incorporated three-dimensional objects such as the Platonic solids such as spheres, tetrahedons and cubes into his works, as well as mathematical objects like cylinders and stellated polyhedra. Escher's artwork is especially well liked by mathematicians and scientists, who enjoy his use of polyhedra and geometric distortions.
Mathematicians have identified 11 strands of mathematical and scientific research inspired by Escher. His works have appeared on album and book covers, posters, clothing, and jigsaw puzzles . Both Austria and the Netherlands have issued postage stamps commemorating the artist and his works.

The asteroid 4444 Escher was named in his honor, in 1985.
He was awarded the Knighthood of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1955. The M.C. Escher Company controls the artist’s intellectual property.

Public Collections
Escher Museum in The Hague
Huis ten Bosch, Japan
Israel Museum
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Canada

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