The Magic of M. C. Escher

Exploring geometry and astonishment in a catalog of the artist's prints

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“Perhaps all I pursue is astonishment and so I try to awaken only astonishment in my viewers. Sometimes ‘beauty’ is a nasty business.” — M. C. Escher

Too often relegated to dorm room walls and Tumblr archives, the work of M. C. Escher deserves a level of attention rarely afforded to visual artists. The publication of “The Magic of M. C. Escher” by Thames & Hudson is more than reason enough to revisit Escher’s dizzying portfolio of woodcuts and lithographs. With a special emphasis on early sketches, the collection pinpoints the process that went into Escher’s infinite spaces and metamorphic tessellations. Alongside the works are snippets of letters and lectures by Escher that illuminate his thought-process and aesthetic mantras.


“What pathetic slaves we turn out to be of gravity’s dominant power over everything on earth! And then that right angle between the horizontal and the vertical!” M. C. Escher said in a lecture. “Our only consolation is that we cannot help it. It isn’t our fault; we must, like it or not, obey gravity, our tyrant.” In this space—raging against formalism while totally succumbing to its pull—Escher defined his unique graphic style.


Influenced by mathematics and classical Italian architecture, the formula that informs Escher’s work is likewise tightly constrained. Nevertheless, whimsy is able to make its way into every corner by following a visual logic that allows for endless repetition and experimentation.

Releasing June 2013, “The Magic of M. C. Escher” is available now for pre-order on Amazon.

Images of the book by James Thorne. See more in the slideshow.