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M.C. Escher: Puddle Woodcut, 1952. Postcard.

M.C. Escher: Puddle Woodcut, 1952. Postcard.

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Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898 – 1972), usually referred to as M.C. Escher was a Dutch graphic artist. He is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. These feature impossible constructions, explorations of infinity, architecture, and tessellations.

Although Escher did not have mathematical training—his understanding of mathematics was largely visual and intuitive—Escher's work had a strong mathematical component, and more than a few of the worlds which he drew are built around impossible objects such as the Necker cube and the Penrose triangle. Many of Escher's works employed repeated tilings called tessellations. Escher's artwork is especially well-liked by mathematicians and scientists, who enjoy his use of polyhedra and geometric distortions. For example, in Gravity, multi-colored turtles poke their heads out of a stellated dodecahedron.

The mathematical influence in his work emerged around 1936, when he was journeying the Mediterranean with the Adria Shipping Company. Specifically, he became interested in order and symmetry. Escher described his journey through the Mediterranean as "the richest source of inspiration I have ever tapped."


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