M C Escher – ‘The things I want to express are so beautiful and pure’

M C Escher may not be one’s first thought when considering photographic practice, as he is not known for working with photography and instead falls into the category of graphic artist, but I have always been intrigued by his work.

Escher worked in two dimensional form, creating designs from drawings in chalk, ink or pencil, or woodcuts for example. Repetition often features, whether he considered forms from nature or more structured tile-like patterns one might associate with Moorish buildings. Living in Rome, he had a wealth of inspiration around him within the architectural details. Similarly to photographers perhaps, Escher wrote of being “bound to the flat surface” (1971, p41) unlike painters or sculptors.  His mathematically based works play with size and scale, e.g. reducing a detail by half each time, which created a satisfaction for him in the creation of his work.  His interest is also evident in the laws of the world, of existence, and a dualism associated with it.  “The spherical world cannot exist without this emptiness around it, […] “inside” presumes “outside”.” (1971, p42)

Escher, M. C. (1939) Development II [Woodcut] Available at: https://www.mcescher.com/gallery/switzerland-belgium/development-ii/ (Accessed 29th July 2019)

Escher seems to recognise a fundamental human drive to repeat in the creation of his visual works, seeing it as inherent as well as being limited only to our imagination.  “The dynamic, regular ticking of the clock each time we pass a boundary line on our journey through space is no longer heard, but we can replace it, in our static medium, by the periodic repetition of similarly shaped figures on our paper surface, closed forms which border each other, determine each other’s shape, and fill the surface in every direction as far as we wish.” (1971, p40)   He also worked with the idea of shapes transitioning e.g. Metamorphosis 1 and 2, large, intricate woodcut prints showing patterns of squares becoming creatures, bee cells, butterflies, birds, fish, buildings etc.  It seems his recognition was also of unity, of the interconnectedness of everything.  “The things I want to express are so beautiful and pure” (Escher, mcescher.com)

Escher, M.C. (1971) in Locher, J. L. (Ed.)  The World of M.C.Escher
New York: Abrams

Featured image:
Escher, M. C. (1961) Creeping Creature (No. 109) [Drawing] Available at:
(Accessed 29th July 2019

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder. – M.C. Escher