2235 words - 9 pages

The Science of Escher

Though M.C. Escher contended that he knew virtually nothing about mathematics, even having gone as far as to declare that he was “absolutely innocent of training or knowledge in the exact sciences,” (Schattschneider 67), his art work commonly incorporates the use of many recognized elements of science and mathematics. It has been argued that Escher’s natural accessibility and his popularity with young art patrons is due to the Escher’s use of symmetry, his use of metamorphosis, and his focus on representational elements of science in his work (Donato 31).

Though Escher appeared unwilling to address it during his lifetime, it was evident that his work was supported by ...view middle of the document...

As a result of his focus on these elements, Escher’s work has actually been utilized since the late 1950s to illustrate some of these mathematical and scientific concepts (Schattschneider 67). In 1954, at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Amsterdam, Escher’s works were prominently displayed as representations of particular mathematical concepts, and the publication of his first book The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher in 1959 marked his further insurgence into the world of math and science (Schattschneider 67).

Though Escher contended that his focus on these elements came not from a knowledge of science, but from a keen understanding of the geometric laws demonstrated in nature, the preciseness of his work and the way that many pieces express specific scientific premises has been a major element of evaluation and speculation in terms of Escher’s work (Schattschneider 67). Escher was fascinated by what he considered to be the “regular division of the plane” which provided the scientific basis for his conceptualization of symmetry in art (Schattschneider 68). During his lifetime, Escher created over 150 color drawings that demonstrated hi scarcity to draw nature, especially animal forms, into symmetrical and non-representational works of art. His drawing Triangle System 1B3, Type 2 (1948), for example, is a colorful and systematrical drawing of butterflies that links the abstract and nature inextricably through Escher’s perspectives on the symmetry in nature (Schattschneider 68). His artistic creations often provide a sense of dichotomy or paradox both in nature and in the world of man (Duran 239). The resulting art works demonstrated the link between the progression of his design of symmetry and his representational process. Some have argued that the direct nature of Escher’s designs are linked to the way Escher perceived nature, more than as demonstrations of a knowledge of math or science.

III. The Use of Symmetry

Symmetry is the structural concept that shapes many mathematical and scientific processes (Schattschneider 68). Though Escher liked to make his drawings appear to have a random construction, a closer look at the particulars of his design orientation demonstrate a clear sense of symmetry (Schattschneider 68). In the example of Triangle System 1B3, Type 2 (1948), Escher’s butterfly design is based on six alternating colored butterflies that move around the flow of the drawing in a circle. Though the symmetry is not immediately perceivable, it is directed through circular symmetry, and provides a unique visual perspective and continuity in the drawing.

Escher is also famous for using symmetry as a means of demonstrating the infinite, and his drawing Circle Limit IV (1960) uses negative space and the picture of a gargoyle incorporated into circular symmetry in such a away that it appears that the circular construction continues with out end (Schattschneider 68). Escher also considered this element of negative space as a...

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