The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher (part 2)

2013/04/14 § 2 Comments

“(T)here came a moment when it seemed as though scales fell from my eyes. I discovered that technical mastery was no longer my sole aim, for I became gripped by another desire, the existence of which I had never suspected. Ideas came into my mind quite unrelated to graphic art, notions which so fascinated me that I longed to communicate them to other people. This could not be achieved through words, for these thoughts were not literary ones, but mental images of a kind that can only be made comprehensible to others by presenting them as visual images.”

(Maurits Cornelis Escher)

Curl-up, lithograph, 1951, 17×23.5 cm


Mirror images

Hand with reflecting sphere, lithograph, 1935, 32×21.5 cm

“A reflecting globe rests in the artist’s hand. In this mirror he can have a much more complete view of his surroundings than by direct observation, for nearly the whole of the area around him — four walls, the floor and ceiling of his room — are compressed, albeit distorted, within this little disc. His head, or to be more precise the point between his eyes, comes in the absolute centre. Whichever way he turns he remains at the centre. The ego is the unshakable core of his world.”


Order and chaos, lithograph. 1950, 28×28 cm

“A stellar dodecahedron is placed in the centre and is enclosed in a translucent sphere like a soap bubble. This symbol of order and beauty reflects the chaos in the shape of a heterogeneous collection of all sorts of useless, broken and crumpled objects.”

Tetrahedral planetoid, woodcut printed from 2 blocks, 1954,
43×43 cm

“This little planet inhabited by humans has the shape of a regular tetrahedron and is encircled by a spherical atmosphere. Two of the four triangular surfaces, with which this body is faced, are visible. The edges which separate them divide the picture into two. All the vertical lines: the walls, houses, trees and people, point in the direction of the core of the body — its centre of gravity — and all the horizontal surfaces, gardens, roads, stretches of water in pools and canals, are parts of a spherical crust.”


“(B)efore photography was invented, perspective was always closely linked with horizon. Yet even at the time of the Renaissance it was known that not only do the horizontal lines of a building meet at a point on the horizon (the famous ‘vanishing point’), but also the vertical lines meet downwards at the nadir and upwards at the zenith. (…) In the following prints the vanishing point has several different functions at one and the same time. Sometimes it is situated on the horizon, the nadir and the zenith all at once.”

House of stairs, lithograph, 1951, 47×24 cm

“Now comes a further development of the concept of relativity (…) A playful element is introduced (…) Roughly the whole of the top half of the print is the mirror image of the bottom half. The topmost flight of steps, down which a curl-up is crawling from left to right, is reflected twice over, once in the middle and then again in the lower part. On the stairs in the top right-hand corner (…) the distinction between ascending and descending is eliminated, for two rows of animals are moving side by side, yet one row is going up and the other down.”

Relativity, lithograph. 1953. 28×29 cm

“Here we have three forces of gravity working perpendicularly to one another. Three earth-planes cut across each other at right-angles, and human beings are living on each of them. It is impossible for the inhabitants of different worlds to walk or sit or stand on the same floor, because they have differing conceptions of what is horizontal and what is vertical. Yet they may well share the use of the same staircase. On the top staircase illustrated here, two people are moving side by side and in the same direction, and yet one of them is going downstairs and the other upstairs. Contact between them is out of the question, because they live in different worlds and therefore can have no knowledge of each other’s existence.”

Conflict between the flat and the spatial

Drawing hands, lithograph, 1948, 28.5×34 cm

“A piece of paper is fixed to a base with drawing pins. A right hand is busy sketching a shirt-cuff upon this drawing paper. At this point its work is incomplete but a little further to the right  it has already drawn a left hand emerging from a sleeve in such detail that this hand has come right up out of the flat surface, and in its turn it is sketching the cuff from which the right hand is emerging, as though it were a living member.”

Balcony, lithograph, 1945. 30×23.5 cm

“The spatial nature of these houses is a fiction. The two-dimensional nature of the paper on which it is drawn is not disturbed — unless we give it a bang from behind. But the bulge that can be seen in the centre is an illusion too, for the paper stays flat. All that has been achieved is an expansion, a quadruple magnification in the centre.”

Impossible buildings

Belvedere, lithograph. 1958, 46×29.5 cm

“In the lower left foreground there lies a piece of paper on which the edges of a cube are drawn. Two small circles mark the places where edges cross each other. Which edge comes at the front and which at the back? In a three-dimensional world simultaneous front and back is an impossibility and so cannot be illustrated. Yet it is quite possible to draw an object which displays a different reality when looked at from above and from below. The lad sitting on the bench has got just such a cubelike absurdity in his hands. He gazes thoughtfully at this incomprehensible object and seems oblivious to the fact that the belvedere behind him has been built in the same impossible style.”

Ascending and descending, lithograph, 1960, 38×28.5 cm

“The endless stairs which are the main motif of this picture were taken from an article by L.S. and R. Penrose in the February, 1958 issue of the British Journal of Psychology. A rectangular inner courtyard is bounded by a building that is roofed in by an never-ending stairway. The inhabitants of these living-quarters would appear to be monks, adherents of some unknown sect. Perhaps it is their ritual duty to climb those stairs for a few hours each day. It would seem that when they get tired they are allowed to turn about and go downstairs instead of up. Yet both directions, though not without meaning, are equally useless.”

from THE GRAPHIC WORK OF M. C. ESCHER: Introduced and explained by the artist



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