Maurits Cornelis Escher (Dutch, 18981972) was born in Leeuwarden, the
Netherlands. He learned the rudiments of drawing and linoleum block printing
from F. W. van der Haagen while a youth. At the age of twenty-one he went to
Haarlem to study architecture at the now-defunct School of Architecture and
Decorative Arts, but gave up architecture to pursue the study of graphic arts
under S. Jessurun de Mesquita. He traveled to Italy and Spain, and in 1923 had
his first solo exhibition in Sienna, Italy. Following this exhibition, Escher
moved to Rome. This marked a turning point in the artists career toward
The following year Escher married Jetta
Umiker, the daughter of a once-wealthy trader, in Switzerland. The
couples first sonGeorgewas born in 1926.The family continued
living in Rome until 1935, when the rise of fascism forced their move back to
Jettas family home in Switzerland.
In 1936 Escher traveled by ocean freighter along the coasts of Italy and
France, to Spain, where he copied in detail the Moorish mosaics in the Alhambra
and in the mosque at Cordoba. These mosaics influenced the direction of his
art. From this point forward Eschers work was no longer bound by the laws
of the physical universe, he began creating the reality-altering illustrations
with which his name would become synonymous. Escher employed various media,
including wood engraving, watercolor, pencil, ink, and lithography, to create
his visual puzzles.
In 1937 the Escher family moved to Belgium and then, in 1941, to Baarn, the
Netherlands, where he lived until 1970. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s his art
was largely ignored, but he began gathering recognition from scientists and
mathematicians. In 1951, Time and Life magazine published articles about him,
and in 1954 he had a large exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam on
the occasion of the International Mathematical Conference; he also exhibited at
the Whyte Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher was published in 1959; in the 1960s,
Eschers work took off among young Americans, many of whom regarded him as
the first psychedelic artist. The Saturday Evening Post and Scientific American
published articles about him.
In 1968, Escher and his wife separated (she moved back to Switzerland; they
never divorced). He exhibited at the Mickelson Gallery in Washington, D.C., and
at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. In 1970 he moved to a retirement home in
the Netherlands for elderly artists. The World of M. C. Escher was published in
1971; in 1972 the beloved artist died of cancer.
M. C. Escher
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