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Artist: Maurits Cornelis Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher

  • Born: 17 June 1898
  • Birthplace: Leeuwarden, Netherlands
  • Died: 27 March 1972
  • Best Known As: Mind-bending artist of “Hand With Reflecting Sphere”

 Escher’s mind-bending prints and drawings playfully explore perspective, mirror images and physical space. Two of his best-known prints, “Relativity” (1953) and “Ascending and Descending” (1960), feature staircases which seem to defy gravity and run in impossible directions. His most popular work may be “Hand With Reflecting Sphere” (1935), an image of himself as seen in a globe held in his outstretched hand. Escher also is known for his tessellations — mosaics of repetitive designs in which positive and negative images interconnect and sometimes blend into one another. Though Escher was not trained in math, his work has been embraced by mathematicians who see his drawings as artistic depictions of geometric principles.


Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid has sat near the top of my “got to read someday” list of books for years. A friend who read it years ago tells me that it’s a bit dated, but it’s hard to resist any analysis of the mind behind the “chicken and the egg” effect of Drawing Hands(above), beautiful not only for its uniqueness but also for its clear draftsmanship. The Official M.C. Escher site contains galleries of these mathematical works as well as galleries of his earlier non-mathematical linoleum cuts, woodcuts, and engravings, all beautiful in their own way.


Escher originally studied architecture before devoting himself to the graphic arts. His architectural background comes across clearly in many of his works, such as his Ascending and Descending above. It takes an amazing mind to create such an impossible structure so believably. Once you visually enter into one of these impossible spaces and mentally try to climb the steps, you realize that you’re just running in circles, but that doesn’t make them any less fun.


One of the most loved and reproduced 20th century artists, M.C. Escher. Born Maurits Cornelis Escher in The Netherlands in 1898, Escher has been amusing and befuddling viewers for decades with his mathematically influenced works, such as the confounding Relativity above.

Although his work is not taught by art schools he remains one of the most influential artist in the last 100 years.

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