Artist profile: M.C. Escher – Traditional

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.


Although M.C. Escher is best known for his mind-bending, mathematically elegant prints, he was quite skilled at depicting architecture, landscapes, people, and animals in traditional ways. Most of my selections are of southern European subjects because, as I mentioned last week, he called the Mediterranean “the richest source of inspiration I have ever tapped.”

Cloister of Monreale, Sicily (1933)
Cloister of Monreale, Sicily (1933)

Cloister of Monreale is one of my favorites. The way the arch frames the tower, the contrast between the foreground and background, and the rays of sunlight – I love it.

Inside St. Peter's, Rome (1935)
Inside St. Peter’s, Rome (1935)

Isn’t Inside St. Peter’s stunning? The geometry is just ridiculous. Notice the very thin lines Escher used to show light and shadow.

White Cat I (1919)
White Cat I (1919)

This is so Japanese. It’s a woodblock print of a white cat on a black background and that’s it. The body shape is strangely sharp – the back and chest are too rectangular. I forgive him because he was still in college, though.

Self Portrait II (1943)
Self Portrait II (1943)

On the flipside, Escher had been an artist for quite some time when he made this self portrait. Look at those crazy eyebrows!

Pineta of Calvi, Corsica (1933)
Pineta of Calvi, Corsica (1933)

I like the illustration quality of Pineta of Calvi. Again, Escher does a great job balancing a dark foreground with a lighter background and keeps both interesting.

Dew Drop (1948)
Dew Drop (1948)

Dew Drop is an amazing example of a mezzotint. Mezzotints, originating in the 1600s, are prints that have real tones; these are made by using a “rocker” tool to punch extremely small dots into the printing plate. Escher was already an expert at using crosshatching, stippling, and lines to represent tones by the time he became interested in mezzotints, but through this medium, he experimented with realism in a whole new way.

Three Worlds (1955)
Three Worlds (1955)

I think this last print is a good segway to next week’s post on Escher’s impossible perspective artworks. It has regular perspective, but shows the direction Escher took into fooling the eye. Not only does it show three “worlds” (water, earth, and sky), it also changes from simple black and white at the top to richly toned at the bottom.

Other parts in the M.C. Escher artist profile series
Impossible perspective
Tessellations to infinity


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