M.C. Escher

notes on art...
All M.C. Escher works & text (c) Cordon Art B.V.-Baarn-the Netherlands. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

In 1922, when I left the school of Architecture and Ornamental Design in Haarlem, having learnt graphic techniques from S. Jessurun de Mesquita; I was very much under the influence of this teacher, whose strong personality certainly left its mark on the majority of his pupils. At that period the woodcut (that is to say the cutting with gouges in a side-grained block of wood, usually pear) was more in vogue with graphic artists than is the case today. I inherited from my teacher his predilection for side-grained wood, and one of the reasons for my everlasting gratitude to him stems from the fact that he taught me how to handle this material. During the first seven years of my time in Italy I used nothing else. It lends itself, better than the costly end-grained wood, to large-side figures. In my youthful recklessness I have gouged away at enormous pieces of pearwood, not far short of three feet in length and perhaps two feet wide. It was not until 1929 that I made my first lithograph, and then in 1931 I tried my hand for the first time at wood-engraving, that is to say engraving with burins on an end-grain block. Yet even today the woodcut remains for me an essential medium. Whenever one needs a greater degree of tinting or colouring in order to communicate one's ideas, and for this reason has to produce more than one block, the woodcut offers many advantages over wood-engraving, and there have been many prints I could not have produced had I not gained a thorough knowledge of the advantages of side-grained wood. In making a colour-print I have often combined both of these raised relief techniques, using end-grain for details in black, and side-grain for the colours.

The period during which I devoted such enthusiasm to my research into the characteristics of graphic materials and during which I came to realize the limitations that one must impose on oneself when dealing with them, lasted from 1922 until about 1935. During that time a large number of prints came into being (about 70 woodcuts and engravings and some 40 lithographs). The greater number of these have little or no value now, because they were for the most part merely practice exercises; at least that is how they appear to me now.

The fact that, from 1938 onwards, I concentrated more on the interpretation of personal ideas was primarily the result of my departure from Italy. In Switzerland, Belgium and Holland where I successively established myself, I found the outward appearance of landscape and architecture less striking than those which are particularly to be seen in the southern part of Italy. Thus I felt compelled to withdraw from the more or less direct and true to life illustrating of my surroundings. No doubt this circumstance was in a high degree responsible for bringing my inner visions into being.

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