The Genius of M.C. Escher Essays

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The Genius of M.C. Escher


Mathematics is the central ingredient in many artworks. While notions of infinity and parallel lines brought “perspective” to the artistic realm in creating realistic representations of depth and dimension, mathematics has influenced art in a more definite way – by actually becoming art. The introduction of fractal geometry and tessellations as creative works spawned the creation of new and innovative genres of art, which can be exemplified through the works of M.C Escher. Escher’s pieces are among the most recognized works of art today. While visually stimulating and deeply meaningful, his art reflects many ideas of mathematics through geometry, symmetry, and patterns.

Maurits Cornelius
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He once said, “Although I am absolute innocent of training or knowledge in the exact sciences, I often seen to have more in common with mathematicians than my fellow artist” (Totally Tessellated: Escher Biography & Timeline, 1998).

Finally, in 1930, Escher received widespread acclaim for his lithograph entitled Castrovolva. He continued to incorporate geometry and patterns in his pieces, and found that his work began to be displayed in science museums rather than art galleries. From 1951-1954 Escher completed some 400 works, by this time a prominent figure in the world of art, the majority of which included such mathematical principles as polyhedra, infinity, knots, and tessellations.

A polygon is a closed figure bounded by three or more straight line segments. A polyhedron is a geometric entity composed of polygons connected at their edges to enclose space. Among the most popular piece that exemplifies the use of polyhedra is entitled Gravity (Figure 1: http://library.advanced.org/16661/escher/trends/1/html) In this Escher work, dinosaur-like creatures emerge from a series of pyramids fit together like a star.

Along with polyhedrons, Escher also incorporated the idea of infinity into numerous pieces. Fascinated by the concept of bounding infinity, that is representing infinity in an enclosed plane, Escher attempted to demonstrate this in his work. He once…