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About Escher



On 17 June 1898 Maurits Cornelis Escher is born in Leeuwarden. He’s the third son out of the second marriage by George Arnold Escher, to Sarah Gleichman. From an earlier marriage father Escher already had two sons.


The family moves to Arnhem

Young Escher

1912 -1918

Escher attends secondary school in Arnhem. He’s not a happy student. He’s left-handed and quite bright, but he’s an outsider. He doesn’t graduate.


Escher gets his first camera, the starting point of an important hobby. During his life he will repeatedly capture important events, also as an inspiration for his work.

M.C. Escher, Eschers father, ir. G.A. Escher, linoleum cut, 1916


Escher creates his first graphic work, a linoleum cut of his father G.A. Escher.

M.C. Escher, Railway bridge across the Rhine, near Oosterbeek, etching, 1917


The family moves to Oosterbeek. In January he makes his first etching: Railway bridge across the Rhine at Oosterbeek.


Escher studies architecture at the ‘Hogere Technische school’ in Delft. He doesn’t like it there and partly because of illness he doesn’t graduate.

1919 – 1922

Escher attends the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. He starts in architecture but switches to graphic art, stimulated and inspired by his teacher S. Jessurun de Mesquita.


Escher creates his first woodcuts. Big blocks too expensive, so he starts with smaller works.

M.C. Escher, Spherical mirror, from Flor de Pascua, woodcut, 1921


Escher makes a holiday trip along the French Riviera and through Italy. It’s the starting point for a long lasting love for this country. In November the booklet Flor de Pascua, with woodcuts by Escher, is published. The woodcuts already reveal themes which would become very important to Escher later on; nature, perspective, refections and tessellations.

M.C. Escher, Eight Heads, woodcut, printed once from the whole block and eight times from different parts, January, February or March, 1922


From 5 April until 12 June Escher makes a journey through northern Italy. In the fall he travels by freighter to Tarragona; makes a trip through Spain and visits the Alhambra for the first time. There he encounters the mozaics which would become so important to his work. Later he travels to Italy, where he stays in Siena from mid-November onwards. This year he also makes his first tessellation: Eight Heads.

M.C. Escher, Portrait of G. Escher-Umiker (Jetta), woodcut, February 1925


From 14 March onwards Escher stays in Ravello. 31 March he meets Jetta Umiker and her familie. Escher and Jetta fall in love soon. Between 13 and 26 August Escher has his first solo exhibition in Siena. From November on he is in Rome.


In February he has his first exhibition in the Netherlands. 12 June Maurits and Jetta get married, in Italy. In October the couple buys their first house in Rome. It can’t be lived in yet, the first months they stay in a pension in Frascati.


The house in Rome is not finished, so Maurits and Jetta temporarily move to Ravello. From early October onwards they live in Rome. Mid-October Eschers brother Arnold dies during a mountaintrip in Tirol. In December Escher starts on a series of six woodcuts about the creation, which would become very popular in later years.

Escher at home, 19 January 1926

1926 – 1935

Eschers fame grows. Especially in the Netherlands he is asked for exhibitions frequently. The international art trade takes an interest in his work and starts to collect it.

Maurits Cornelis Escher and George Arnold Escher
29 December 1926


From 2 to 16 May Escher has a popular exhibition in Rome. In June the couple buys  a second home in Rome, which is also not immediately livable. 23 July their first son is born: George Escher. This year Escher sells his first works (9) for a total of NLG 330.

A page from Eschers photo album, from 1929

1927 – 1935

Almost every year, usually in the spring, Escher makes a mountain trip through desolate regions. During these trips he makes sketches he will use later on for his work. He also takes a lot of photos and he keeps a travel diary.


In the spring the family moves to the second home in Rome. For the first time Escher has his own studio.

M.C. Escher, Tower of Babel, woodcut, 1928


In February he makes Tower of Babel. On 8 December their second son is born: Arthur Escher


Escher experiments on a new technique: cutting away ink on parchment paper. Due to these experiments he gets interested in lithography.


Publication of the article M.C. Escher – grafisch kunstenaar, in “Elsevier’s Geïllustreerd Maandschrift”. In it the renowned art historian G.J. Hoogewerff speaks out his appreciation for Eschers work. In the fall Escher creates his first wood engraving: San Cosimo.

M.C. Escher, Lute (XXIV Emblemata), woodcut, between March and June 1931


In the summer the book XXIV Emblemata dat zijn zinne-beelden, with woodcuts by Escher, is published.


In the autumn De vreeselijke avonturen van Scholastica (The Terrible Adventures of Scholastica) is published, also with woodcuts by Escher.

M.C. Escher, Nonza, lithograph, February 1934


In spring Escher works on a series called Nocturnal Rome. His lithograph Nonza is awarded a third prize at an exhibition in Chicago. From 12 to 22 December he has an exhibition at the Dutch Historical Institute in Rome.

M.C. Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere (Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror), lithograph, January 1935


In January Escher makes Hand with Reflecting Sphere . Concerned about his their children’s health and the rise of fascism in Italy, the Eschers decide to move tot Switzerland on 4 July.


Between 27 April and 25 June Escher makes a sea trip along the coasts of Italy and France to Spain, where he visits the Alhambra for the second time, as well as the mosque in Córdoba. It’s a turning-point in his work, going from ‘landscapes’ to ‘mental imagery’

M.C. Escher, Metamorphosis I, woodcut, printed on two sheets, May 1937


In August the Eschers move to Brussels. This year he creates his first Metamorphosis. Eschers brother Berend, professor in geology and kristallography at the  University Leiden, sees his tessellations and he provides his brother with publications in his field. Escher is inspired by it for his tessellations but ultimately creates his own system.

M.C. Escher, Day and night, woodcut, 1938


Escher creates Day and Night, a woodcut that becomes hugely popular. During his life he will print it at least 650 times. On 6 March the Eschers third son is born: Jan Christoffel. In June he makes Sky and Water. The press praises him for his new style.

G.A. Escher on his 90th birthday in 1933


14 June his father George Arnold Escher dies. In November Escher starts on a 4 meters long woodcut called Metamorphosis II, in which a series of tessellations create a storyline. He’s working on it until the new year.


In May the book M.C. Escher en zijn experimenten (M.C. Escher and his experiments) is published. Escher’s mother dies on 27 May.


In February the Eschers move to Baarn in Holland.

M.C. Escher, Reptiles, lithography, March 1943


In March he makes Reptiles.


On 31 January Eschers former teacher Jessurun Mesquita is taken by the German forces, never to return. His death moves Escher deeply. He makes sure Mesquita’s graphic work and drawings are taken to the ‘Stedelijk Museum’ in Amsterdam.

Escher makes a reprint of Horseman


Escher explores the mezzotint technique. More and more he talks about his work in presentations. In July he makes the woodcut Horseman.

Escher inspects a print of Up and Down


In July he makes Up and Down.

In his studio Escher points a a print of Drawing Hands


In January Escher makes Drawing Hands. He’s approached by the VAEVO (‘Vereniging tot bevordering van het Esthetische element in het Voortgezet Onderwijs’) to reprint his works. That summer 400 prints of Up and Down are made, more will follow later.


Articles on Escher are published The Studio and Time and Life magazines.

M.C. Escher, Relativity, woodcut, July 1953


In July Escher makes Relativity.


In September Escher has a large one-man exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam on the occasion of the International Mathematical Conference. In October and November he exhibits in the Whyte Gallery, Washington, D.C. His works sells well in the US. Because he prints all of his works himself, he doesn’t have a lot of time to make new work. In an effort to create time he ups his price. It doesn’t help, the works keeps on selling. That summer he makes a sea journey along the Mediterranean coast, the first one since Worldwar II. He will repeat this the following years.


In February the Eschers move to a new house in Baarn. On 30 April Escher is knighted.

M.C. Escher, Print Gallery, lithograph, May 1956


In May he makes Print Gallery. This summer he starts his correspondence with Bruno Ernst.


In February the article Impossible Objects: A Special Type of Visual Illusion, by Lionel and Roger Penrose, is published in the British Journal of Psychology. Inspired by Escher, they make and analyse visual illusions. The following year Escher reads it and a meeting of minds transpires, about visual illusions. At ‘Stichting De Roos’ Eschers book Regelmatige vlakverdeling (The Regular Division of the Plane) is published.


In November Grafiek en tekeningen M.C. Escher (The Graphic work of M.C. Escher, 1961) is published. 14 November his exhibition at Boijmans van Beuningen opens.

1960 – 1971

Eschers popularity and the number of number of foreign clients rise exponentially. His earnings climb from NLG 26.255 to NLG 507.816 yearly.

M.C. Escher, Ascending and Descending, lithograph, March 1960


In March Escher makes Ascending and Descending. In August he has an exhibition and lecture in Cambridge during an international conference of crystallographers. From 29 August to 14 October he embarks on a sea voyage from Genua to Vancouver. End of October he has a lecture at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


29 July the article How to read a painting by E.H. Gombrich is published in the Saturday Evening Post. In it Gombrich describes Eschers work intensively. This article creates a lot of additional buzz around Escher.

Escher during the official presentation of his design


Escher designs a tessellation for a pillar in the new ‘Provinciale Waterstaat’ building in Haarlem. It is revealed on 27 March. But his health deteriorates. At the end of April he’s hospitalized for an emergency operation, followed by a long period of recovery. He’s forced to cancel his trip to the USA and Canada along with all of his planned lectures and exhibitions.


On 1 October Escher and Jetta fly to Canada, where he falls ill again and has to undergo another operation in Toronto. His reading and exhibitions in Canada are cancelled.

1965 – 1970

Eschers work rises in popularity among the general public. Stanley Kubrick approaches him to think about a four-dimensional movie. Mick Jagger asks him if one of his works can be used for an album cover by the Rolling Stones. Both are refused.

Symmetry Aspects of M.C. Escher’s Periodic Drawings by professor Caroline H. MacGillavry


In March Escher is awarded the cultural prize of the city of Hilversum. In August Symmetry Aspects of M.C. Escher’s Periodic Drawings by Caroline H. MacGillavry is published. An article on Escher appears in the October issue of Jardin des Arts.


Scientific American publishes a long article on Escher in its April issue.


On 30 April he is made an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau


Escher has exhibitions in Washington, D.C. (Mickelson Gallery) and The Hague (Gemeentemuseum, for his 70th birthday). At the end of the year Jetta leaves for Switserland to live with their son Jan. Escher lives on his own with a housekeeper.

Public at the Phoenix Gallery in California, 1969


20 February the large wall painting Metamorphose III (48 by 1.60 meters) is revealed at the main postal office in The Hague. In July he creates his last woodcut: Snakes.


In the spring Escher is re-admitted to hospital for another major operation. In August he moves to the Rosa Spier House in Laren. At the world exhibition in Osaka a film about Eschers work is shown, commisioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


In December De Werelden van M.C. Escher (The World of M.C. Escher), by J.L. Locher (ed.), is published.


Escher dies on 27 March in the hospital in Hilversum, aged 73.


De Toverspiegel van M.C. Escher (The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher) by Bruno Ernst is published,  a result of a long series of talks between Escher and the mathematician Ernst.


Leven en werk van M.C. Escher (M.C. Escher, His life and complete graphic work)  by J.L. Locher (ed.), is published. It’s the life story and the first complete catalogue of Escher work.


M.C. Escher. Een biografie, the first biography on Escher, is published by Wim Hazeu.


Opening of Escher in Het Paleis, the monographic museum on the life and work of M.C. Escher is opened in The Hague.

More about Escher


A selection of his most important works, from early Italian landscapes to his latest woodcut Snakes

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Stories about Escher

Get to know Maurits Cornelis Escher. Articles by our curator and other authors provide deeper insight into his life and work.

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Escher on film

During the years several interesting documentaries and short films have been made about Maurits Escher. On this page we show a selection of them.

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