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How M.C. Escher Worked

M.C. Escher Biography

Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in Leeuwarden, capital of the Dutch province of Friesland, on June 17, 1898. He was the youngest son of renowned civil engineer G.A. Escher. The family moved when Escher was 5 to the city of Arnhem, where Escher spent most of his early years.

Escher wasn't much of a student in the traditional sense. His grades were poor. He had to repeat a grade twice, and eventually he failed his high school exams. The only subject at which Escher excelled was art. It was already obvious to Escher's art teacher, F.W. van der Haagen, that his student had talent.

At his father's urging, Escher enrolled in the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem to study architecture. Yet within just a few days of arriving at the school, Escher fell so in love with the graphic arts that he changed his major. One of the school's faculty members, Samuel Jesserun de Mesquita, convinced him to pursue a degree in that discipline, and Escher studied graphic arts and woodcut techniques under Mesquita from 1919 to 1922.

After leaving art school, Escher went to Italy. He traveled throughout the country and sketched the landscapes and architecture in towns like Amalfi, Campania, Abruzzi and Sicily from 1923 to 1935. During his Italian excursion, he met the woman who would become his wife, Jetta Umiker. They married in 1924 and moved to Rome. In July 1926, they had a son named George. Two more sons, Arthur and Jan, followed in 1928 and 1938, respectively.

With the rise of Mussolini's Fascist regime in Italy, Escher moved to Switzerland in July 1935. He stayed there briefly and then spent a short time in Brussels, Belgium, before finally returning to the Netherlands in 1941. He died in Laren after a long illness on March 27, 1972.