Born on this Day: M. C. Escher - The Master of Optical Illusions

Born on this Day: M. C. Escher - The Master of Optical Illusions


On June 17, 1898 MC Escher was born. Maurits Cornelis Escher, a Dutch graphic artist whose work would transcend traditional boundaries of art and mathematics. Known for his impossible constructions and mind-bending optical illusions, M. C. Escher remains an iconic figure in the art world. His intricate and mathematically inspired designs have captivated audiences for decades, making him a timeless inspiration for artists, mathematicians, and anyone fascinated by the complexities of visual perception.

Early Life and Influences

M. C. Escher was born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, and grew up in Arnhem. His early fascination with drawing and printmaking led him to study at the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem, Netherlands. Though initially trained as an architect, Escher’s true passion lay in graphic arts, a path encouraged by his teacher Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita.

Escher's travels through Italy and Spain deeply influenced his work. The Moorish architecture of the Alhambra in Granada, with its intricate tessellations and geometric patterns, left a lasting impression on him. These experiences became the foundation for his exploration of mathematical concepts in art.

Artistic Journey and Key Works

Escher’s body of work is vast, but some pieces stand out for their complexity and innovation. Here are a few key works that showcase his unique style:


Relativity (1953)

This lithograph is one of Escher's most famous works, depicting a world where the normal laws of gravity do not apply. Staircases lead in multiple directions, creating a visually perplexing environment that challenges the viewer's perception of space and orientation.


Hand with Reflecting Sphere (1935)

In this iconic self-portrait, Escher presents himself holds a reflective sphere, capturing a distorted image of his studio. This piece exemplifies his fascination with spherical perspective and the interplay between reality and reflection.


Ascending and Descending (1960)

This lithograph illustrates an endless staircase, where figures appear to be perpetually climbing and descending. Inspired by the Penrose staircase, this work embodies Escher's exploration of infinite loops and paradoxical structures.


Metamorphosis II (1939-1940)

A masterpiece of transformation, this long woodcut print transitions from a checkerboard pattern to a series of complex, interlocking shapes, including insects, birds, and fish. It showcases Escher’s skill in creating seamless visual transformations.


Escher’s Legacy in Art and Mathematics

M. C. Escher’s work has had a profound impact on both the art and mathematics communities. His intricate designs and optical illusions have inspired mathematicians to explore new geometrical concepts and artists to push the boundaries of visual perception. Escher’s legacy continues to thrive in popular culture, influencing everything from album covers to architectural designs.


For more on M. C. Escher and his groundbreaking work, check out the Official M.C. Escher website  for a deeper dive into the life of this master of optical illusions.

Main Image : MC Escher working in his studio.


Image two : Relativity, 1953

Image three: Sky and Water I, 1938




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