An essay that describes the work of art of Maurits Cornelis Escher–The Metamorphosis.
Known to be one of the world’s greatest graphic artists, Maurits Cornelis (or Cornelius) Escher (1898 – 1972) created artworks that are enjoyed by people generations to generations. His works include “visual riddles, playing with the pictorially logical and the visually impossible” and a notable “irony, often with impossible perspectives rendered with mechanical verisimilitude” (The Columbia Encyclopedia 2004, p. 15899; Shaw-Eagle 1997, p.3). He is visionary artist with his perspective and perceptual games, complex interlocking shapes like a jigsaw puzzle and some architectural complexes that are from construction (Shaw-Eagle 1997, p.3). Most artists believed that Escher’s key concepts in art are: “the domain of the artist builds upon, but lies beyond, craft; Escher’s art provides insights into a pluralistic concept of the world; Escher’s concept of plurality does not mean chaos but order – an interaction between structures and recognizable motifs; art deals with illusions of reality; science provides endless motivation for visual imagery; design utilizes mathematical and geometric properties; and the artist’s concept of the physical world provides insights that can be both scientific and aesthetic” (Doornek 1994).
Metamorphosis (or Metamorphose) is a series (Metamorposis I (1937), Metamorphosis II (Nov. 1939-Mar.1940) and Metamorphosis III (1967-1968)) of woodcut artworks that depicts incongruous spaces, patterns, blocks, and other images. In Metamorphosis I which is printed in two sheets, the concept was to transform one image into a tessellated pattern and gradually alter its outlines into different images such as the coastal Italian town of Atrani to pattern of three dimensional blocks and become a tessellated pattern of China doll (Wikipedia 2005a). Meanwhile, Metamorphosis II was printed from 20 blocks on three combined sheets. Same aim as the Metamorphosis I, it changed from the word metamorphose inside a black rectangle, smaller rectangles in grid pattern, then grid patterns turned black and white checkered, which then befall to reptiles, a honeycomb, insects, fish, birds and a pattern of 3D blocks with red tops and served as the architectural design of Atrani. It was then connected by a bridge to a tower in the water which is a castle piece from chess set. There are other chess pieces in the water and turned to chessboard. Then, it leads to a checkered wall and returned to the metamorphose image (Wikipedia 2005b) Lastly, Metamorphosis III is the largest print and most likely among largest prints ever made – measuring 7 ½ x 268” with 33 blocks in six combined sheets of canvas and partly colored by hand. It was similar to Metamorphosis II but the angles of the checkered pattern turned into elongated diamond shapes, to flowers and bees, return to diamond pattern, back into checkered pattern, resumes with Metamorphosis II imagery up to the bird pattern, to sailboats, to second fish patterns, to horses, to second bird patter, to black-and-white triangles, that becomes envelopes with wings, to black-and-white triangles, and then to the original bird pattern. The Metamorphosis II print is the concluding image (Wikipedia 2005c).
Escher’s works seem to stimulate mathematical constructs in his buildings but ironically, he is poor at math in school. His Metamorphosis series idea was to turn one shape or object into something completely different (Shaw-Eagle 1997, p.3). Mathematicians, artists and other people recognized Escher’s keen observation of the world around us and Escher just expressed his personal fantasies. He showed reality is “wondrous, comprehensible and fascinating” (National Gallery of Arts 2005).
In application to reality, Escher’s masterpieces are a clear depiction that nothing is permanent in the world but change. Everything is dynamic and it all undergoes the natural process of metamorphosis. Because Escher is a visionary, he has a tendency to predict the future through his images and patterns. Like his Metamorphosis series, life is changing. Everyone develop nor deteriorate, live nor die, expand nor constrict, continue nor stop, and go away nor get back. The best interpretation of M.C. Escher’s Metamorphosis series is the change that everyone has to undergo in order to become a better individual in the future.
Doornek, R 1994 March, ‘M.C. Escher: Beyond the Craft’, School Arts, vol. 93, no. 7, pp. 25+.
National Gallery of Arts 2005, ‘M.C. Echer – Life and Work’ viewed 24 November 2010 http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/ggescher/ggescher-53927.0.html.
Shaw-Eagle, J 1997 ‘Gallery Etches Captivating View of Escher’, the Washington Times, October 26, pp. 3.
The Columbia Encyclopedia 2004, Sixth Edition, Columbia University Press, New York.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia 2005a, ‘Metamorphosis I’, 24 November 2010 http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/ggescher/ggescher-53927.0.html.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia 2005b, ‘Metamorphosis II’, 24 November 2010http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/ggescher/ggescher-53927.0.html.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia 2005c, ‘Metamorphosis III’, viewed 24 November 2010 http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/ggescher/ggescher-53927.0.html.