WHAT INSPIRED ESCHER?
Simply put, Escher was inspired by what he saw in the world around him.
It’s true. Escher, himself, was the one to say, “I am absolutely incapable of drawing!”
Bruno Ernst, in his book The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher, deciphered Escher’s complaint. Ernst writes that Escher could not draw well relying on his imagination alone. Escher had to look at an object to capture its essence on paper. Ernst’s book has pictures of clay models of the Curl-up “bug” and the ants that circle the Moebius strip. This suggests that had a praying mantis never perched at Escher’s side long enough for Escher to draw him, the print Dream (right) would have never been made.
A look at Escher’s earliest artworks reveal that he mastered the techniques required to capture an image onto stone or wood. Then, during the 1930’s, he stopped recording what is, and started creating what could be.
M.C. Escher was an artist equipped with the curiosity of a child. Where some people saw a building defined by physics and mathematics, Escher saw an opportunity to defy perspective. Who wouldn’t want a perpetual waterfall self-contained within an aqueduct? (see Waterfall lower right)
His paradoxes are often subtle, which allows the viewer to have fun finding them. Often one-half of any impossible drawing is perfectly plausible, consider Convex/Concave, the left half and right half taken independently follow the rules of perspective. The same is true with the bottom half of Belvedere compared to the top. Even Drawing Hands would be less exciting were it only one hand. It’s the combination of two rights that make a wrong.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few Escher exhibit openings and witness viewers discover Escher’s “flaws.” At any opening there are two types of people, those that are excited to be there, and those that felt they “should show up.” It’s the latter, those who know nothing about Escher, that are the most fun to watch. I witnessed two men making their rounds through the exhibit, talking to each other and glancing at the pieces. As they lumbered past Belvedere (pictured left) the second man stopped and backed up. He cocked his head to the right. He shifted his drink to his left hand so that he could trace the ladder with his right index finger. I heard him mutter, “Impossible!”
He called for his friend to look at it. The two spent a few minutes verbally dissecting the piece and how the perspective went wrong. Regardless of their conclusions, the artwork was a success. It inspired emotion, thought, and even discussion. What more would M.C. Escher want?
I understand I started this web page with the intent to divulge some of Escher’s inspirations, whereas I’ve hardly scratched the surface. I will continue to add more pages of information and observations as time permits. This site will always be a work in progress...click HERE to read how Italy inspired Escher.