The Worlds of M. C. Escher: Nature, Science, and Imagination

FIELD TRIP! Remember those elementary school days where field trips were the highlight of the year? The entire Cuberis team brought out our inner 5th graders and headed over for a Friday afternoon field trip to see The World of M. C. Escher at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Except instead of juice boxes and fruit snacks at the end, we celebrated with beer. Oh, the joy being an adult brings. 

This may come as no surprise, but M. C. Escher is awesome. I mean really, how else can you describe this man? His artwork is purposeful, thought-provoking and so incredibly detailed. He didn’t just create art in one or two various methods, but explored multiple avenues ranging from lithographs to woodcuts to pen/pencil. He was inspired by math and perception, but would also create beautiful landscape scenes. He wanted to show you different perspectives that would force you to question possibility. One of his most famous quotes directly relates to this point. 


The exhibition setup of Escher’s creations was quite intriguing. They displayed not only the final work, but when possible, various stages of the work (sketch, woodcut, print). It was a vast collection of his work, and included many pieces that are rarely featured in public. Ultimately, if I had to choose my favorite that I saw, I would say it was a tie between Three Spheres II (Lithograph, 1942) and Still Life and Street (Woodcut, 1937). 

On a side note, who doesn’t love the North Carolina Museum of Art? Both inside and outside the physical space is gorgeous. I can’t wait to see what their upcoming outdoor expansion will look like.

So, what did the rest of the team think?


The Escher exhibition was tremendously impressive. My favorite pieces were definitely Still Life with Mirror and Relativity. Still Life with Mirror felt delicate and almost reminiscent of a scene from my grandmother’s house, whereas Relativity was just plain ol’ interesting. The thing I was most impressed with across all of his work was the attention to detail. His approach looks to have been done with great forethought and care.


The biggest thing I enjoyed about the exhibit was learning about the life of Escher and the chronological progression of his work. Also learning about his workflow was interesting – how he would do “studies” and sketches on his subjects prior to producing the final pieces and how it would sometimes take years between the two.


I really enjoyed the way the exhibit took you on a tour of Escher’s life. It was pretty amazing to see the photos of him and the things he painted and how they all fed into his work. To see those progressions through sketches, models, woodcuts, only to finally create a mezzotint, was incredible. 


I really enjoyed the videos that were included throughout the gallery. His work was so involved, but I had no idea how many steps it took for him to create one print from a lithograph! One of my other favorite parts was reading how Escher’s son remembered his father’s process, and that it would start small, as an exciting idea, and take months to complete, but at the end he was never fully satisfied, because the product didn’t live up the vision in his head.


Aside from the incredible detail and concepts of most of Escher’s work, my favorite part of the exhibit happened at the very beginning. Three works hang next to one another on the first wall of the exhibit. All done by Escher at various points in his life, all with the same subject: his father. Presented by themselves, they act as telling works about his skill and how he viewed his father, but it’s not until they’re placed next to one another that a certain magic happens. The juxtaposition of these three works forces you to compare and contrast them, and in so doing a wonderful narrative emerges. One that clearly illustrates the evolution of Escher’s technical ability as he aged, but also how that evolution is inversely reflected within the figure of his father. The first work was done when Escher was a teenager. It’s a rough, unrefined woodcut bust of his father looking proud, stern, tough, and seemingly infallible. The second work depicts his father as aging, but still very capable. He’s wearing a suit, glasses, and he’s using a magnifying glass, all done in a style that indicates Escher’s solid grasp of the concepts introduced by the Cubists of that era. The third shows a radically different scene. This time, Escher gives us a beautifully rendered technical pencil sketch of his father lying on what appears to be his deathbed. In this work, it is clear that Escher has mastered the medium, just as his father prepares for his departure. It’s an extremely compelling story of the human condition, told simply by placing three works of art next to one another.

Have you seen the exhibition yet? You have until January 24th to take yourself on an adventure through the work of Escher. Tell us what you thought about it. We’d love to keep the conversation going on Twitter (@Cuberis)