Maurits Cornelis Escher
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World renowned artist Maurits Cornelis Escher was born June 17, 1898, in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Escher is famous for his mathematically infused art and his works remain incredibly popular to this day.
The youngest child of a civil engineer, Escher showed an early ability to understand and work with spacial patterns. Early on in life, Escher was not an academic success. Instead, after he failed his high school exams, he came into his own while attending the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem.
Escher entered this school with the intention of studying architecture. However, things changed during his first week when he showed his drawings to the man who would become his mentor, Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita. With Mesquita’s encouragement, Escher informed his father that he was changing his field of study to graphic art.
Escher traveled throughout his life, and his work reflects the various places he lived. While living in the Mediterranean, he was introduced to the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. He would later return to this structure, its geometric beauty inspiring his work with patterns.
During this period of his life, Escher married Jetta Umiker, with whom he had three children. Settling down in Rome with his young family, Escher began even more work inspired by architecture. He painted conventional scenes such as landscapes and portraits, but at the same time, he experimented with perspectives, shadows and other elements that made his work iconic and distinctive.
Much of Escher’s most famous work came from a fusion of art and mathematics. Mathematicians in particular admired his work with tessellations – repeating closed shapes that entirely cover a plane with no gaps over overlapping figures.
Escher was particularly known for his ability to use plane figures that morphed from one distinct image to another. This ability of his was brilliantly used in his “Metomorphis” and “Development” art series.
Escher’s work also contained the Platonic solids, three dimensional figures constructed with matching polygonal sides. These works, along with his exploration of the nature of space itself, creating what was known as his “impossible spaces,” gave him respect from the mathematical and scientific communities. In fact, in the 1950’s, when Escher began to draw interest for his work, it was these communities, along with the public, who first recognized and embraced him.
Escher was amazingly prolific throughout his lifetime. He left behind a body of work that consisted of over 2,000 drawings and sketches, as well as lithographs, woodcuts, and wood engravings.
Escher also produced mezzotints, which employed a painstakingly detailed process of engraving an image onto metal. His body of work also included lesser known pieces such as postage stamps, book illustrations, murals, art rugs and tapestries.
Escher died on March 27, 1972. However, his legacy continues.
In 1997, during the centennial celebration of his birth, The National Art Gallery, presented an exhibition of his work, and copies of his art are still reproduced and widely available throughout the world.