M.C Escher: Infinite Dimensions at the MFA

M.C Escher: Infinite Dimensions at the MFA


Written by Sanya Mittal

Showcasing the artwork of Maurits Cornelis Escher, The Museum of Fine Arts opened a new exhibit called “M.C. Escher: Infinite Dimension” on Feb. 3. Simple yet complex, Escher’s art plays with the mind of the observer. His prints focus on the art of creating tessellations: the creative arrangement of shapes that fit tightly together to form incredible images.

Born in the Netherlands in 1898, Escher struggled through his early education. Though he had artistic talent, his performance in school was poor. He attended an art school in the Netherlands in 1919,  and after spending three years there, he began to travel through Europe. The fifty pieces on display at the MFA create a mini-timeline of Escher’s life.

His earliest work on display is a self portrait of his 31-year-old self painted in 1929. His earlier pieces were not as complex as his later works, as much of his work prior to the 1940s focused on realism. In fact, his piece “Ravello and the Coast of Amalfi,”  a scene of the Italian coast created after Escher’s trip to Italy in the early 1930s, is painted very realistically.

One of his earliest tessellation prints also happens to be largest, spanning an entire wall in the center of the exhibit. In “Metamorphosis II” the tessellation tells the story of transformation, as the piece transitions between shapes, animals and urban life.

More optical illusions began to emerge in his work during the late 1930s and early 1940s. For example, “Magic Mirror” plays with the mind of the observer. On one side of the mirror, griffins appear in two dimensional form, creating a tessellation that alternates between white and black birds. The black griffins seem to come off the page and become three dimensional creatures, marching around the mirror before once again fading into the paper, creating the tessellation. The mirror that the griffins march around further enhance the dreamlike quality of the image, as it reflects the griffins fading into the paper and then re-emerging as three dimensional figures.

A set of simple red and white prints were on display, part of Escher’s series called “Regular Division of the Plane I” which was commissioned in 1957 by the De Roos Foundation. These prints best exemplify Escher’s art. His tessellations flawlessly blend together, one print in the set showcasing a checkerboard shifting into birds flying east, and then a smooth transition from the birds to fish swimming in the opposite direction. Similarly, his print “Sky and Water II”  show black birds in a white sky fading into white fish in black water.

His famously mind-boggling artwork began in the 1950s, with his impossible buildings. At first glance the structures seem realistic, but under further inspection it can be seen just how impossible the structures are. The most well-known print of his set of impossible buildings may be “Ascending and Descending,” in which figures in the print descend or ascend up a flight of stairs in impossible ways.

Much of Escher’s work deviates from typical art seen in museums. His artwork stuns the human eye, truly exploring the infinite dimensions and perspectives in which his art can be observed.

This exhibit is on display in the MFA Gallery 155 until May 28th.

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