1. Introduction: M.C. Escher, short biography

Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in Leeuwarden (in the Netherlands) in 1898, the son of an engineer, G.A. Escher. The family moved to Arnhem in 1903, where he entered high-school at 13 (until then he took carpentry and piano lessons). He wasn't a good student, although his art teacher noticed his talent - twice he had to repeat a grade and he failed to obtain a diploma on leaving.

In 1919, following the wish of his father, he went to Haarlem to study at the School of Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem under the architect Vorrink. But after assisting to a lecture of Samuel Jesserun de Mesquita on graphic techniques, Escher realised that his talents lay more in the direction of the decorative arts than in that of architecture. He then changed courses and de Mesquita became his main teacher. Work from this period show that he was mastering the technique of woodcut.

Escher left the art school in 1922, after he acquired a good grounding in drawing and he had so mastered the art of the woodcut that de Mesquita thought he was ready to go his own way. He kept regular contact with de Mesquita and he would send the master copies of his latest pieces of work.


After leaving school, Escher spent time traveling through Italy, and in the autumn he would return there. He spent the winter of 1922 and the spring of 1923 in Siena, where he produced the first woodcuts of Italian landscapes. He also met here his future wife, Jetta Umiker, whom he was to marry in 1924. After the wedding the couple moved to Rome, where their first son, George, was born in 1926.

Until 1935, Escher, together with other fellow artists, would set-off each spring on a two-month journey in the Abruzzi mountains, Campania, Sicily, Corsica and Malta, from where he would collect impressions and make sketches. During this period, he was not very well known. He had held a few exhibitions and illustrated some books. He hardly sold any work, and he remained dependent on his parents.

Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands

In 1935, the political climate in Italy became unacceptable to Escher, so the family left Italy and settled in Switzerland, at Chateau d'Oex. They stay here was, however, very short, due to the harsh climate and the landscape, which afforded him no inspiration. He then decided to travel in the Mediterranean region on a cargo vessel, in exchange for some of his paintings. The journeying, partly comprising travels in the south of Spain, had a great impact on Escher's work. For example, visiting the Alhambra in Granada, where he studied the Moorish ornamentations, inspired him to work on tessellations of the plane.

In 1937 he moved to Ukkel, near Brussels, Belgium, and because of the war, he settled in 1941 in Baarn, Holland. It was here where the richest work of the artist quietly flourished. His recognition and success came after 1955. After 1953, he became a lecturer at many organisations and he wrote a book with illustrations and text for some lectures, which was later published as part of the book Escher on Escher. In July 1969, he finished his last work before his death. In 1970 he moved to Laren, in North Holland, where he died in 1972.