Winged Horses, Griffins
Maurits Escher rug, from the 1980's, pure wool
edition 250, issued by Desso Design carpets Netherlands. Signed recto in weave.
170 x 241 x 1,5 cm
Weight ca. 18 kg.
Maurits Cornelis Escher 1898 – 1972 was a Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically-inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. Despite wide popular interest, Escher was for long somewhat neglected in the art world, even in his native Netherlands. He was 70 before a retrospective exhibition was held. In the twenty-first century, he became more widely appreciated, with exhibitions across the world.
His work features mathematical objects and operations including impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry, and tessellations. Although Escher believed he had no mathematical ability, he interacted with the mathematicians George Pólya, Roger Penrose, Harold Coxeter and crystallographer Friedrich Haag, and conducted his own research into tessellation.
Early in his career, he drew inspiration from nature, making studies of insects, landscapes, and plants such as lichens, all of which he used as details in his artworks. He traveled in Italy and Spain, sketching buildings, townscapes, architecture and the tilings of the Alhambra and the Mezquita of Cordoba, and became steadily more interested in their mathematical structure.
Escher's art became well known among scientists and mathematicians, and in popular culture, especially after it was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1966 Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. Apart from being used in a variety of technical papers, his work has appeared on the covers of many books and albums. He was one of the major inspirations of Douglas Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach.
M C Escher was born in Leeuwarden, Friesland, the Netherlands, in a house that forms part of the Princessehof Ceramics Museum today. From 1919 to 1922, Escher attended the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts, learning drawing and the art of making woodcut prints. He briefly studied architecture, but he failed a number of subjects and switched to decorative arts, studying under the graphic artist Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita. In May and June 1936, Escher travelled back to Spain, revisiting the Alhambra and spending days at a time making detailed drawings of its mosaic patterns. It was here that he became fascinated, to the point of obsession, with tessellation. The sketches he made in the Alhambra formed a major source for his work from that time on. He also studied the architecture of the Mezquita, the Moorish mosque of Cordoba. The Netherlands post office had Escher design a semi-postal stamp for the "Air Fund" in 1935, and again in 1949 he designed Netherlands stamps. These were for the 75th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union; a different design was used by Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles for the same commemoration.
Escher is not the first artist to explore mathematical themes: Parmigianino (1503–1540) had explored spherical geometry and reflection in his 1524 Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror, depicting his own image in a curved mirror, while William Hogarth's 1754 Satire on False Perspective foreshadows Escher's playful exploration of errors in perspective.Another early artistic forerunner is Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), whose dark "fantastical" prints such as The Drawbridge in his Carceri ("Prisons") sequence depict perspectives of complex architecture with many stairs and ramps, peopled by walking figures. Only with 20th century movements such as Cubism, De Stijl, Dadaism, and Surrealism did mainstream art start to explore Escher-like ways of looking at the world with multiple simultaneous viewpoints. However, although Escher had much in common with, for example, the Surrealism of Rene Magritte, he did not make contact with any of these movements. His work influenced Op art and kinetic art and you can detect the influence on artists such as Vasarely and Agam.
Escher was interested enough in Hieronymus Bosch's 1500 triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights to re-create part of its right-hand panel, Hell, as a lithograph in 1935. He reused the figure of a Mediaeval woman in a two-pointed headdress and a long gown in his lithograph Belvedere in 1958; the image is, like many of his other extraordinary invented places.
Escher worked primarily in the media of lithograph and woodcut, although the few mezzotint works he made are considered to be masterpieces of the technique. In his graphic art, he portrayed geometric mathematical relationships among shapes, figures, and space. Integrated into his prints were mirror images of cones, spheres, cubes, rings, and spirals.
Escher was also fascinated by mathematical objects such as the Möbius strip, which has only one surface. His wood engraving Möbius Strip II (1963) depicts a chain of ants marching forever over what, at any one place, are the two opposite faces of the object—which are seen on inspection to be parts of the strip's single surface.
The art historian and artist Albert Flocon identified Escher as a "thinking artist" alongside Piero della Francesca, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Wenzel Jamnitzer, Abraham Bosse, Girard Desargues, and Père Nicon. Flocon was delighted by Escher's Grafiek en tekeningen ("Graphics in Drawing"), which he read in 1959. This stimulated Flocon and André Barre to correspond with Escher and to write the book La Perspective curviligne ("Curvilinear perspective").
Escher's fame in popular culture grew when his work was featured by Martin Gardner in his April 1966 "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American. Escher's works have appeared on many album covers including The Scaffold's 1969 L the P with Ascending and Descending; Mott the Hoople's eponymous 1969 record with Reptiles, Beaver & Krause's 1970 In A Wild Sanctuary with Three Worlds; and Mandrake Memorial's 1970 Puzzle with House of Stairs and (inside) Curl Up. His works have similarly been used on many book covers, including some editions of Edwin Abbott's Flatland, which used Three Spheres; E. H. Gombrich's Meditations on a Hobby Horse with Horseman; Pamela Hall's Heads You Lose with Plane Filling 1; Patrick A. Horton's Mastering the Power of Story with Drawing Hands; Erich Gamma et al.'s Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-oriented software with Swans; and Arthur Markman's Knowledge Representation with Reptiles. The "World of Escher" markets posters, neckties, T-shirts, and jigsaw puzzles of Escher's artworks. Both Austria and the Netherlands have issued postage stamps commemorating the artist and his works.