Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 2, 2010

M.C. Escher at the New Britain Museum of American Art

Peter and I recently visited The New Britain Museum of American Art a treasure not far west of Hartford, Connecticut. Special exhibits included one of Hudson River paintings, illustrations for pulp novels, and the one we especially came for: M.C. Escher: Impossible Reality, showing through November 14. We enjoyed the sketches Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) worked out on graph paper, and the range of his woodcuts, lithographs, and other prints. Apparently his brother was a geologist, who got him thinking about the symmetry found in crystallized forms. M.C. Escher said he found he usually had more in common with mathematicians than artists. Here is Ascending and Descending:

And just an edge of one of my favorites, Metamorphosis, which took up a wall:

My husband was really the one who wanted to see the show, as Escher’s work can leave me dizzy. (It took lots of extra help one summer for me to make it through a college logic course: I had nightmares of tables turning into numbers and letters, and have a thing for solid ground.) But this show tipped me in a good direction, at least for the afternoon.

In 1965 Escher wrote: “I can’t help mocking all our unwavering certainties. It is, for example, great fun to deliberately confuse two or three dimensions, the place and space, or to poke fun at gravity. Are you sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling? Are you absolutely certain that you go up when you walk up your staircase? Can you be definite that it’s impossible to have your cake and eat it, too?”



  1. Lucky you! He was a genius.
    My parents had a print of Ascending and Descending. My cousin has a much smaller print of fish turning into birds. I think it had two colours.

  2. Reflecting on his 1965 quotation…which I love.
    I’m reimagining and reinterpreting his thoughts as they might apply today. They seem fitting. For it seems to me that increasingly large numbers of people are expressing unwavering certainty about matters they know little (or nothing) about. “Truthiness,” I think Stephen Colbert called it. And for some, blind faith appears to cloud all sense of reason. Perhaps also our affinity for individualism is warping our sense of community. I can’t prove any of this, of course, but I see and hear things that lead me to believe this is so. And I find myself wishing I could reverse those trends, or at least alter their course.
    Sorry for the heavy thoughts on a weekend morning. (And for the fact that they’re neither eloquently or adequately expressed.) I guess that’s what Escher inspires in me…the propensity to look at things in new and/or deeper ways.

  3. I totally get the dizzy part. That stuff can make my brain twirl. I like it in small doses.

  4. Yes, I really got more appreciation for his genius after seeing a range of his works, and always love some glimpse into process, which the exhibit offered. Have a good weekend, Barbara!

  5. Yes, that bit of writing made me think he’s quite the writer as well as artist. And thank you for the thoughts, which seem clearly expressed to me. What a tribute to Escher, that he inspires us to look at so much from new and enlightening angles. I’m happy he got you thinking about dangerous certainty.

  6. I was a bit afraid to go into the exhibit, but knew I could dash out and look at rivers below and sky above if needed. But it was so well arranged, that while I kept a handle on my pacing, I wasn’t seasick when I left.

  7. When I met David, he was working on a thesis that involved a mathematics problem in n-dimensions. Talking to him about it was a little like looking at Escher — very dizzying. But I liked it (and him even more, obviously!).

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