Maurits Cornelius Escher

Born: 17 June 1898 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Died: 27 March 1972 in Laren, Netherlands

[Mathematiker Bild]

Show birthplace location

Previous (Chronologically) Next Biographies Index
Previous (Alphabetically) Next Welcome page

M C Escher's father was a civil engineer and realising his son's liking for art and draw e sent him to study at the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. However when 21 years old Escher gave up architecture in favour of graphic arts.

With a growing interested in graphics, he spent a number of years travelling in Europe. He married in 1921 and lived in Rome. His works at this time depict landscapes using impossible perspectives.

Fascism in Italy in the 1930s made life impossible for Escher and his family and they moved to Switzerland. In 1936 Escher made an important journey to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. He was fascinated by the Moorish tilings he saw there and some time after his visit he read Pólya's 1924 paper on plane symmetry groups.

Although he did not understand the abstract concept of groups discussed in Pólya's paper he did understand the 17 plane symmetry groups described there. Between 1936 and 1941 Escher worked on possible periodic tilings producing 43 coloured drawings with a wide variety of symmetry types. He adopted a highly mathematical approach with a systematic study using notation which he invented himself.

After spending a while in Belgium, Escher returned to the Netherlands in 1941. His fame slowly spread and articles appeared on his work during the 1950s. His works began to be displayed in science museums rather than art galleries.

Escher corresponded with several mathematicians for example Pólya and Coxeter. A number of quotes by Escher show his relation with mathematics and mathematicians. First from a lecture Escher gave in 1953, see [2]:-

... I have often felt closer to people who work scientifically (though I certainly do not do so myself) than to my fellow artists.
In 1958 he published Regular Division of the Plane and in this work he says:-
At first I had no idea at all of the possibility of systematically building up my figures. I did not know ... this was possible for someone untrained in mathematics, and especially as a result of my putting forward my own layman's theory, which forced me to think through the possibilities.
Again in Regular Division of the Plane Escher writes:-
In mathematical quarters, the regular division of the plane has been considered theoretically. ... [Mathematicians] have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain, but they have not entered this domain themselves. By their very nature they are more interested in the way in which the gate is opened than in the garden lying behind it.
In [5] his last years are described as follows:-
When Escher's view of the world turned inward he produced his best known puzzling prints. which, art aside, were truly intellectually playful, yet he was not. His life turned inward, he cut himself off and he had few friends. ... He died after a protracted illness...
References (5 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

You can see another picture of Escher which he made as a self-portrait.Other Web sites:

A list of Escher Web sites can be found in Berkeley, USA.

Previous (Chronologically) Next Biographies Index
Previous (Alphabetically) Next Welcome page
History Topics Index Famous curves index
Chronologies Birthplace Maps
Mathematicians of the day Anniversaries for the year
Search Form Simple Search Form Search Suggestions

JOC/EFR January 1997