M.C. Escher


M.C.Escher portrait
M.C. Escher portrait

Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in Leeuwarden, in the north of the Netherlands in 1898. He spent most of his youth in Arnhem, where he developed his liking for drawing. Between 1919 and 1922 he studied at the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts of Haarlem, and concentrated on the graphic and decorative arts. Once he had finished his studies, he set off to travel. He spent some time in Italy and then headed for Spain. In 1922 he arrived in Granada, where he was stunned by the Alhambra. In 1936 he went on a final work trip, and returned to the Nazrid citadel. After living for a few years in Italy, Switzerland and Belgium, he settled down in Baarn, where he died in 1972, leaving more than 400 lithographs and wood engravings, and also some 2,000 drawings and sketches. These compositions would make him one of the greatest graphic artists of the 20th century.

A lonely introvert, his career began in architecture, but he soon abandoned this discipline to devote himself to the graphic arts, a means through which his ideas would take shape. He was also obsessed with the idea of representing relative, disturbing and imaginary spaces and worlds, and in order to express his fantasies and optical illusions on paper or the printing plate, he used mathematics, special Illusions, impossible buildings and figures which are repeated… Both the playful and the scientific –playing with and exploring the rules of nature– are combined magisterially in his works, provoking the perplexity of the person observing them. His engravings and drawings have been admired for many years not only by artists, but also by scientists from all over the world. And it should be noted that Escher was a purely scientific artist, who represented abstract concepts in his work related to the invisible order of the universe, with an obsession to represent worlds with a different set of rules.


1898 – He is born on 17 June in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. He is the son of George Arnold Escher and his second wife, Sarah Gleichman, the daughter of the Minister for Finance.

1912-1918 – He attends secondary school in Arnhem, where he resides with his family from 1903. He is an average student in every subject but excels at drawing.

1916 ­– Escher develops an interest in different engraving techniques and produces his first graphic work this year, a portrait of his father. First graphic work (linoleum cut).

1917 – His family move to Villa Rosande in Oosterbeek. Together with his friends, he begins his forays into Russian literature and the writing of poetry and essays. First etching.

1919-1922 – He attends the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. Here he begins to work alongside the graphic arts teacher Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita.

1921 – He takes a holiday with his family along the French Riviera and through Italy. In November he publishes Flor de Pascua (The Easter Flower, A.P. van Stolk), a catalogue illustrated with woodcuts by Escher.

1922 – From April to June, Escher travels around Northern Italy once again. In September he travels by freighter to Spain where he visits Granada and the Alhambra, among other places.

1923 – He takes up residence in Ravello, where he meets his future wife, Jetta Umiker. Soon afterwards he moves to Siena, where he holds his first solo exhibition. At the end of the year, he moves to Rome.

1924 – First exhibition in the Netherlands, at the De Zonnebloem Gallery in The Hague. He marries Jetta on 12 June in Viareggio.

1926 – He exhibits in Rome in May. His son George is born on 23 July.

1928 – His son Arthur is born on 8 December.

1929 – Escher begins to gain renown. He organises five almost simultaneous exhibitions in Rotterdam, Utrecht, Leeuwarden (in the house where he was born), Arnhem and The Hague. From that point forth, the number and frequency of the exhibitions of his graphic work increases considerably. He dedicates himself to the in-depth study of lithographic techniques.

1934 – He is awarded third prize for his lithograph Nonza, presented at the Contemporary Graphic Art Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.

1935 – The Escher family, concerned over the political climate in Italy, move to Switzerland in the month of July. In September they take up residence in Châteaux-d’Oex.

1936 – He makes his second journey to Spain in the spring, and makes his second visit to the Alhambra. This journey marks a turning point in his artistic career. He leaves Spain in June, one month before the rebel army rises up in arms against the Second Republic.

1937 – The Escher family move to Brussels, to a house in the neighbourhood of Ukkel, to the south of the city.

1938 – His son Jan is born on 6 March.

1939 – His father dies on 14 June. Escher, that very day, makes a portrait of him on his deathbed.

1940 – The German army invade the Netherlands. His mother dies on 27 May.

1941 – In February, the Escher family move to Baarn (the Netherlands).

1946 – First etchings.

1951 – Some influential international magazines such as The Studio, Time and Life publish articles on his work, thereby sparking international interest in his work and quickly spreading his work throughout the English-speaking world. It also marks the beginning of widespread interest among scientists in his work.

1954 – In September he exhibits at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, on the occasion of the International Mathematical Conference. In October and November he holds an extensive exhibition of his graphic work at the Whyte Gallery in Washington D.C., which is received with great success and marks the beginning of his relations with the collectors’ market of Escher prints in the United States.

1955 – In February, the Escher family move to a new house in Baarn. The Dutch government confer him with the Knighthood of the Order of Orange Nassau in April.

1958 – He publishes the book Regelmatige vlakverdeling (The Regular Division of the Plane), which had begun two years earlier and in which he explains, with geometrical examples taken from his own work, his various techniques for the geometric division of space.

1960 – In August, he holds an exhibition and lectures on the occasion of the International Crystallography Congress in Cambridge. He travels to Canada. He lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge (Massachusetts).

1961 – The art historian E.H. Gombrich publishes an article on Escher in The Sunday Evening Post.

1966 – The magazine Scientific American publishes a lengthy article on the work of Escher.

1968 – He exhibits in Washington and The Hague. He makes his last etching, a woodcut. At the end of the year, Jetta moves to Switzerland to live with Jan. The Escher Foundation is set up.

1970 – In August, he moves to the convalescent home for artists Rosa Spierhuis in Laren, Northern Holland.

1971 – In December, De werelden van M.C. Escher, by J.L. Locher, is published (the English edition is published under the title of The World of M.C. Escher in 1972).

1972 – Escher dies, at the age of 73, on 27 March in the Hilversum Hospital. Since 1970 he had suffered heart problems and had undergone operations on several occasions. He had been following with avid interest the book being written by Bruno Ernst on his work, as he deemed it would be really important; however, he did not live to see it completed. Indeed he was right, the interpretation made by Ernst continues to be the most complete, comprehensive and informative interpretation of Escher’s graphic work to date.



Last modified on Tuesday, 22 March 2011 12:34