5 Amazing Facts of the Artist who Transformed Graphic Art and Design with the use of Mathematics

When we look at an artist’s work, we always assume that the artist wants to convey a hidden message. Picasso, Dalí and other famous artists, provoked us to look at their work with the intention of letting our imagination take over. But that is not the case with the artwork of the famous M.C. Escher.

In the last one decade when every exhibition of M.C. Escher has attracted a huge number of crowd who were mesmerized by his mind-boggling artwork. To name a few -Endless waterfalls, inside-outside buildings, perpetual staircases.

Today the global media sees M.C.Escher as an artist who made us believe the impossible or preventing us from seeing the impossibility lying in front of our eyes. So who was M.C. Escher?

Born on 17 June 1898 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, Maurits Cornelis Escher‘s graphical artwork represents the perfect amalgamation of mathematics and art like never before. Escher is among the few of the great modern artists who is beloved by everyone; from counterculture youth to mystics and scientists. Today Escher art is enjoyed by millions of people and his work is taught to thousands of art students across the words, but there are a few strange facts about Escher’s life and work that may have not have been known -:

Escher’s work remained unrecognized for most of his career!

Hard to believe but for most of his career, Escher was unknown and most of his work never sold during his life term. Yet each work required hundreds of hours of research. A mathematician would present him with a visual paradox and he would immediately go back to his studio and try to figure out a way to use it in an image

Escher almost designed the currency for the Dutch Central Bank.

In 1950, De Nederlandsche Bank held a competition to create new guilder banknotes. Escher developed a series of sketches and in addition to his characteristic illusions and geometric designs, his banknotes featured the scientist Van Leeuwenhoek, a founder of modern microbiology. Sadly, the designs were rejected for being "too ornate" – and the incident has set another example of the world misunderstanding Escher.

Escher work has made secret Hollywood appearances

Escher’s artwork has inspired many famous movies. The super hit sci-fi thriller Inception (2010) by Christopher Nolan, is set in a world where dreamscapes are used for corporate espionage. The film includes a scene where the streets of Paris bend with each plain having its own gravity (like in “Relativity”), and in other scenes, makes references to Penrose stairs, which were used by Escher in “Ascending and Descending.”

Similarly, in Peter Jackson’s super hit fantasy trilogy movie,“Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001) and the scene of the Mines of Moria was inspired by Escher’s artwork “Procession in Crypt”.

He was not a mathematician -- in fact, he wasn't even a good maths student!

Even though Escher’s artwork has inspired mathematicians, architects and scientists, Escher had little background in or talent for math. In fact, he had poor grades, failed his high school exams, and dropped out of architecture school to study decorative arts. It all changed fifteen years later when he read a paper by George Pólya on plane symmetry groups, repetitive patterns on two-dimensional surfaces. The paper inspired his work for decades to come though Escher admits he understood little of the mathematical theory behind it.

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© Shantala Palat 2015