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Escher, M C

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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Working name of Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972). He had no real connections to either sf literature or sf Illustration during his career as an artist specializing in woodcuts and lithographs. However, he is renowned for regularly employing Mathematics to depict impossible scenes, effectively classifying him as an sf artist – and one of great significance, since his paradoxical works relate to bedrock concepts like Sense of Wonder and Conceptual Breakthrough far more than images of Spaceships or humanoid Aliens. His iconic works include Day and Night (1938), a gridwork of black and white birds moving in opposite directions over contrasting rivers; Gallery (1946) and Other World (1947), both featuring rectangular chambers with windows alternately opening onto moonscapes and expanses of outer space; Drawing Hands (1948), showing two three-dimensional hands emerging from a two-dimensional sketch to draw each other; Relativity (1953), depicting figures climbing stairs in a world with multiple centres of Gravity; and Ascending and Descending (1960), which popularized the image of the square-shaped Penrose stairway (invented by Roger Penrose and his father) which keeps ascending yet connects back to itself.

Fittingly, Escher's art has been employed as sf Illustration, further connecting him to the genre; examples include Other World, the cover of Brian W Aldiss's collection The Airs of Earth (coll 1963); Relativity, the cover of the July 1967 issue of New Worlds; and Day and Night, the cover of Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976). His striking creations have also been referenced in sf Cinema and Television: for example, the Futurama episode "I, Roommate" (1999) has characters inspecting a potential apartment that resembles Relativity, while a dream sequence in the film Inception (2010) depicts a Penrose stairway recalling Ascending and Descending. Today, his work is probably better known than it was during his lifetime, thanks to the publication of numerous folios and always-popular calendars. [GW]

Maurits Cornelis Escher

born Leeuwarden, Netherlands: 17 June 1898

died Laren, Netherlands: 27 March 1972

works (selected)


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