Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Escher, M C

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(1898-1971) Dutch graphic artist, famous for his distinctive, usually monochrome, engravings and lithographs. Fantastic elements appear in early prints like "Dream" (1935), featuring a gigantic locust (see Great and Small); but it was MCE's lifelong experimentation with quasi-mathematical patterns and extremes of perspective that frequently compelled fantasy in his work. Thus "Circle Limit IV (Heaven and Hell)" (1960) combines the ideas of tiling the plane with repeated figures and representing infinity in a finite area, giving a circular universe entirely filled with receding, interlocking Angels and Demons. Imaginary Animals emerge from flat tessellation into 3-D reality and sink back again (see Cycle) in "Magic Mirror" (1946) – except that, in a tension with which MCE often teasingly plays, the "reality" is of course also in the 2-D picture plane (see also Trompe-L'Oeil); this work, in that it forms a progression from left to right, exemplifies the notion that almost all central Fantasy Art is a narrative form. Several MCE works actualize the impossible geometries described by H P Lovecraft and others as a signal of Wrongness: there are eye-hurting contradictions of architectural perspective in "Convex and Concave" (1955), "Belvedere" (1958) and "Waterfall" (1961) – whose aqueduct runs visibly downhill to a point two storeys above its beginning – and the more subtly disconcerting Penrose stairs in "Ascending and Descending" (1960), where cowled figures plod around a quadrilateral loop of staircase going forever up, or down. The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher (graph coll 1961; exp 1967; trans John E Brigham 1967 UK) assembles 76 plates, each with brief comments by MCE. His art has appeared on postage stamps and as murals in Dutch public buildings; it is well known in fantasy, an early UK example being the use of "Stars" (1948) on the jacket of Best Fantasy Stories (anth 1962) ed Brian W Aldiss. MCE is one of the rare artists to have created his own universally recognizable iconography of wonder. [DRL]

other works: The Pop-Up Book of M.C. Escher (graph coll 1991).

further reading: The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher (1976; trans John E Brigham 1976 US) by Bruno Ernst.

Maurits Cornelis Escher


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.