M. C. Escher

Born 1898. Died 1972.
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M. C. Escher Biography

The Dutch printmaker M. C. Escher (born Maurits Cornelis Escher on 17 June 1898, in Leeuwarden) worked in numerous mediums but is perhaps best known for his use of wood engraving and lithography, as well as his creation of highly realistic images that often contain both optical and illusionary effects. Although Escher was not a strong student, he studied between 1919 and 1922 at the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem, where he acquired a deep interest in graphic art.

Early in his professional career, Escher produced prints mainly of landscapes, both urban and rural, which were striking but largely naturalistic. By the 1930s, however, he began to embrace what he described as “inner vision,” a stylistic mode that employed intricate designs featuring repeated, stylized figuration. Such compositions have come to be most closely related to Surrealism and are Escher’s most recognizable works. Perhaps his most famous of these, Ascending and Descending, 1960, depicting a series of staircases that seem to both go up and down simultaneously, has drawn attention from both artistic and mathematical communities; it was shown at the International Mathematical Congress in Amsterdam in 1964. Escher compiled a series of these types of optical illusions and patterns into their popular book Regular Division of the Plane. Works like these, featuring impossible architectural spaces and surprising transmutations of objects, have continuously drawn the public’s interest, and as such have been widely collected; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, currently has the largest collection of Escher’s work outside of the Netherlands. M. C. Escher continued to work until late in life, moving to an artist’s retirement home where he had his studio in 1970. He died in 1972.

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