In this video, Professor Ian Stewart of Warwick University explores the mathematical influences in the works of Dutch artist M. C. Escher.
“If you wander around university mathematics departments, you will find Escher pictures all over the place. You’ll even find them in the textbooks, because they really do talk to mathematicians,” says Stewart.
“And from today’s perspective, I think mathematicians understand much more clearly what it was Escher was trying to do – to the extent we can actually write down formulas for some of the things that he does, and we can investigate what mathematical ideas lie behind them.”
Born in Leeuwarden, (1898-1972), Maurits Cornelis Escher is known for the optical illusions and distorted perspectives of his woodcuts, lithographs and mezzotints. Impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry and tessellations featured prominently in his works.
For this reason, even though neglected by the art world until fairly late in his career – even in his native Netherlands – Escher’s creations became well-known among scientists and mathematicians, as well as in pop culture, in particular after having been featured in the 1966 ‘Scientific American’.
“Mathematicians know their subject’s beautiful; Escher shows us that it’s beautiful,” says the Warwick University academic.
Today, the artist’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the Escher in Het Paleis in The Hague, among others.
View the original video here.
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