Maurits Cornelis Escher
"So let us then try to climb the mountain, not by stepping on what is below us, but to pull us up at what is above us, for my part at the stars; amen."
People who tend to favour the left side of their brain are often characterised as good scientists, mathematicians, musicians, historians, engineers, and statisticians. What we don't often associate with people of such hemispheric persuasions is art appreciation. Yet these people often are entranced by the work of an artist who could almost be considered the patron saint of left-brained art lovers. His work, in the form of prints, rather than painting, often embraces a seemingly logical realism while depicting impossible fantasies that both perplex and fascinate those for whom logic is king. That man is Maurits Cornelis Escher.
Born a hundred years ago, M.C. Escher was something of a failure as an artist in his early life. Supported largely by his family, he seldom earned more than a few hundred dollars a year from his artwork. However in 1954, at the age of 56, a big show at Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum made him an instant success. His work went on to inspire a Pulitzer Prize winning book of his prints which compared him to Johan Sebastian Bach and the German mathematician, Kurt Goedel. In such left-brained company, the logical souls of the world of science and engineering had an artist they could love.
Escher died in 1972, leaving behind a host of prints such as the drawing of a hand drawing a hand, or his Self-supporting Waterfall in which water appears to flow uphill then drop again to turn a waterwheel in a perpetual motion machine which any left-brained scholar knows to be impossible, yet Escher makes to seem very real. It would appear that there are really quite a number of left-brained art lovers. The National Gallery of Art, which has mounted an 85-unit retrospective of his work, says that the most requested artist in their print study room is not Picasso, not Rembrandt, or Goya, but selections from the more than 400 Escher prints they have in their stored collection.
contributed by Lane, Jim
13 January 1998