M. C. Escher: The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher

Fig. 1. Maurits Cornelis Escher, Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror, 1930. http://www.mcescher.com

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972), referred to as M.C. Escher (Fig. 1) generally, is famous in his mathematical and illusional approaches. Majority of his works are made of woodcut, wood-engraving, lithography, and mezzotint. He employs the idea of figure-ground, perspectival illusion and tiled patterns into production. One of his greatest contributions — The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher has been one of my favorite in annotated bibliography. Written in an uncomplicated manner, this book is indeed easy to read and offers an extraordinary insight.

I have visited Escher’s official website and gathered some useful information before including this book in my bibliography. Except of graphic art, he also produced illustrations for books, postage stamps, murals and designed tapestries. The website mentions that

“He is most famous for his so-called impossible structures, such as Ascending and Descending, Relativity, his Transformation Prints, such as Metamorphosis I (Fig. 1), Metamorphosis II (Fig. 2 and Fig. 3) and Metamorphosis III, Sky & Water I or Reptiles.”

Fig. 2. Maurits Cornelis Escher, Metamorphosis I, 1937. http://www.mcescher.com

Fig. 3. Maurits Cornelis Escher, part of Metamorphosis II, 1940. http://www.mcescher.com


Fig. 4. Maurits Cornelis Escher, part of Metamorphosis II, 1940. http://www.mcescher.com

Through my researches, I realize that 1922 is an important year for his artist career. He was much fascinated and even inspired by the geometrical symmetrical patterns found in Alhambra, Spain. The repeated interlocking wall mosaics (Fig. 5 and Fig. 6) has turned out the inspiration for his later works by dividing up the plane mathematically, i.e. Swans, Horsemen, Symmetry Watercolour 106 BirdsSymmetry Drawing E69, Tessellation 105, etc.

Fig. 5. Wall mosaics in Alhambra. http://www.alhambradegranada.org

Fig. 6. A close up on wall mosaics in Alhambra. http://www.alhambradegranada.org

The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher collects various pieces of the best works from M.C. Escher before 1961. Escher personally wrote down the rationale, material, and progress about each work. At the introduction, he referred himself as “absolutely innocent of training or knowledge in exact science” (Escher, 1961, p. 6) and never refers any Gestalt theory, but his remarkable masterpieces highly practiced the mathematical principles and gestalt law. As a practitioner who was expertly experiment in figure-ground phenomenon, he described his works are delineated “by means of tone contrast, instead of linear contrast.” (Escher, 1961, p. 6) He also expresses his great interest in black art technique of mezzotint that later prompted the production of seven pieces of artworks.

Fig. 7. Maurits Cornelis Escher, Day and Night, 1938. http://www.mcescher.com

Many of his works that archived in book are useful to demonstrate the practicality of figure-ground phenomenon, such as Day and Night (Fig. 7), Encounter, Magic Mirror, Metamorphose, etc. Compared with the rest of the text, the Escher’s visual experiment and personal comments worth valuable to me.

Escher, Maurits (1961) The graphic work of M.C. Escher. New York: Ballantine Books


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