The Magic of M. C. Escher
M.C. Escher, the artist who lived from 1898 to 1972, suffers from horrible overexposure. Who hasn't seen the college dorm room posters, postcards, T-shirts, and coffee mugs of such well-worn images as a hand drawing another hand or gothic buildings with never-ending staircases? The mass reproduction of these images has carved a firm place in our popular culture, yet made the work dismissible as modern art. Beyond the familiar images, though, is an immense body of work. The Magic of M.C. Escher covers in depth the graphic illustrations, woodcuts, and lithographs of Escher's career. The artist has always attracted the attention of scientists, mathematicians, and teenage boys everywhere; the popular 1980s game Dungeons & Dragons seems to borrow heavily from the systematic yet mystical quality of his drawing style. With his amazingly repetitive graphic illustration and unflinchingly control of size, shape, and shading, Escher draws like a human computer. One can only wonder what he might have done with today's graphic tools.
The book itself is creatively put together, with foldouts, seemingly endless images, and a loving introduction by the director of the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague. The minimal text selections that appear throughout are quotes from Escher himself, many taken from letters to family members. These personal musings give candid insight into what he thought about his peers, his career, and his work: "I really do feel these days like a kind of 'specialist,' and I don't want to 'depend' on my specialty alone, but I also feel it to be my duty to devote myself to that as much as possible." This remarkable book is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the astounding work of the man who could create two-dimensional origami with a pencil. --J.P. Cohen