M.C. Escher (1898-1972) has been requested at least 6 times for "Feel Art Again." Since yesterday marked the 37th anniversary of Escher's death, it's only fitting that today's "Feel Art Again" post is devoted to the Dutch printmaker. (Shown above are Escher's "Hand with Reflecting Sphere" and "Old Olive Tree, Corsica.")
1. At the School voor Kunstnijverheid (School of Applied Arts) in Haarlem, M.C. Escher studied under Samuel Jesserun de Mesquita, who left a lasting impact on the artist's life. Escher was so influenced by de Mesquita that he kept a photo of his teacher on his cupboard for his whole life. During World War II, after de Mesquita and his family were taken to a concentration camp, Escher visited the deserted de Mesquita house and salvaged what prints he could find.
2. Although his father was a civil engineer, Escher considered himself to be "absolutely innocent of training or knowledge in the exact sciences" and "extremely poor at arithmetic and algebra." Escher even repeated two grades and failed several of his initial classes at the School of Applied Arts (though those may have been more due to his many health problems than his scientific or mathematical ineptitude). Yet Escher published a math paper, "Regular Division of the Plane with Asymmetric Congruent Polygons," for which many scholars consider him a research mathematician.
3. Escher's art has long straddled the line between the sciences and the arts. Although Escher said of himself, "I am a printmaker, heart and soul," he "often felt closer to people who work scientifically"¦ than to [his] fellow artists." Of his work—which has long attracted the attention of mathematicians and scientists, but not the art world—Escher said, "For me it remains an open question whether [it] pertains to the realm of mathematics or to that of art."
4. "The richest source of inspiration [Escher] ever tapped" was a 1936 journey through the Mediterranean with the Adria Shipping Company. In exchange for prints of the sketches he made along the journey, Escher received free passage and meals for himself and a one-way ticket for his wife, Jetta. At the Alhambra palace in Granada, Escher was fascinated by the Moorish art; after the trip, he began making the prints full of invented images and mathematical principles for which he became known.
Larger versions of "Hand with Reflecting Sphere" and "Old Olive Tree, Corsica" are available. Fans should check out the official M.C. Escher site; the Escher collection at the National Gallery of Art; Escher and the Droste Effect; Escher for Real; this Lego version of an Escher classic; and the video "A Night of Numbers" on Escher's mathematical works. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.