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My Favorite Artists and Their Art: M.C. Escher

  • Apr 24, 2011
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M.C. Escher is one of those artists who is impossible to categorize. His works don't possess the typically inherent emotions of most art movements. His art is far more procedural, intellectual, and precise in its purpose. Many of his works are woodcuts done entirely in black and white, yet his works are as complex and unforgettable as those of artists who pour the full spectrum of colors onto their canvases with paint. What Escher does is present viewers with works of art that are at once restrained in their expression of emotions, but at the same time are provocative and mentally stimulating. One could half-jokingly say that looking at an M.C. Escher print is like doing mathematical gymnastics with your eyes and brain.
The Eye
Escher seemed to have an obsession with reflective surfaces and presenting images that contain another image within them. This particular work is quite nice in that it juxtaposes a living human eye with the countenance of a human skull, one representing life and the other death, but also showing what is beneath the surface of the living person's face (which is unseen with the exception of the eye).
Drawing Hands
One of Escher's better known works. I love this one because it presents viewers with a paradoxical enigma, an unsolvable visual puzzle, which has neither a beginning or an end. When one looks at one hand in this picture, one's eyes are then drawn (no pun intended) to the other hand, and then back again. The fact is that neither hand is drawing the other, but rather it is the artist's, Escher's hand which is drawing them both. This is one of those creations of Escher's that was inspired by the Moebius Strip, a loop that turns back on itself being both one and two-sided and eternal, so it exists outside of time.
Arguably the most famous and beloved of Escher's images, Relativity showcases the room full of stairs that lead in all directions and seem to defy physics and gravity. There is no floor nor ceiling, so the picture can be displayed from a number of different angles and still have the same affect. This image has inspired numerous homages in films including memorable scenes in Labyrinth and Inception.
Hand with Reflecting Sphere
Again, Escher creates an indelible image using a reflection. This time he utilizes a metallic sphere, which is being held by a hand, and within the sphere we can observe the man whose hand supports it as well as the room that surrounds him. One of the things that's fascinating is that often in paintings in which a reflection of a person or subject is present, we find our eyes attracted to the reflection, however, Escher has almost subverted this instinct by making the hand somehow more captivating than the emotionally inert man to whom the hand belong making, essentially causing his hand to overshadow the rest of him.
This particular image of three snakes and the ornate decorative design from which the emerge, is one of the few color pieces that Escher did outside of his Symmetrical prints that use repetitive images to convey a sense of eternity or timelessness, however this work manages to do both and still possesses character.
Another of Escher's paradoxical images as the stream moves its way through a channel that starts at the bottom, moves up to the top falling from the waterfall, and returning to the bottom again. Escher creates this illusion by slightly altering angles and toying with the perspective of the viewer.
One of Escher's earlier images which borrows iconography from biblical stories. While it doesn't possess the intricacies of his later prints, this one is unique for its depiction of various life forms, humans and animals, in an almost symmetrical landscape, which causes us to focus at the center of the drawing and the separation of man from woman.
The Castle in the Air
This is an image which I have found that I love, though I'm not exactly sure why. It's another early Escher picture that doesn't contain his signature paradoxes or the level of detail that his later works have, but it has a strange hypnotic quality with its use of horizontal lines to show the rippling of the water and the reflection of the giant castle suspended overhead. I have no idea where there is a young man on a turtle in the water.
The Fall of Man
Escher returns to biblical themes with this image showing the temptation of Adam by Eve and by the serpent (depicted here as a large lizard). One of the aspects of this I love is the way Escher used the black and white to offset each other and how one crosses into either light or shadow and then reverts to the other, black becoming white and white becoming black.
Bond of Union
This wonderful image shows a ribbon which is spiraling outward in two directions from the center and forming the two faces of a man and woman. What's interesting is that here Escher depicts man and woman again (much as he did in Paradise), but this time they are both united and share the same origin, whereas before they were merely two separate bodies joined by holding hands. Here they are one, two sides of the same reality, coexisting together to form a whole.

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April 26, 2011
Thanks for the treat! This is one excellent list and you've done a good job of showcasing his works! Excellent!
April 26, 2011
Thanks Sharrie, I'm glad you liked it. My next list is going to be for Potter Junkies. Not sure when I'll have time to type it all up, but I'm hoping to in the next week or two. : )
April 26, 2011
April 25, 2011
nice list....I'll comment further on the photos...
April 25, 2011
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