Virtual Cinema | A Tantalizing Documentary on Artist & Mathematician M.C. Escher January 17, 2021
M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity recounts the story of world-famous Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. Equal parts history, psychology, and psychedelia, this eye-opening portrait personalizes Escher through his own words and images, diary musings, correspondence, and more, all voiced by British actor Stephen Fry.
Musician Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills & Nash) once revealed that in the 1960s, he telephoned the aging Escher to say how much he appreciated Escher as an artist. “I’m not an artist,” Escher said, “I’m a mathematician.”
Obsession with Metamorphosis
Escher’s work is so popular that “the artist behind those spellbinding images is often unnoticed,” says Dena Woodall, curator of prints and drawings at the MFAH. “This film brings Escher himself to the forefront by exploring his life; his meticulous artistic process as a draftsman and printmaker; his inspirations from nature, mathematics, architecture, and alchemy; and his obsession with the process of metamorphosis.”
Endlessness of Infinity
Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898–1972) studied architecture before turning to drawing and printmaking. When Escher’s interest in Arabic design was renewed while visiting the Alhambra in 1936, he became fascinated with the geometry and symmetry of the intricate and complex patterns, including tessellations (arrangements of orderly shapes filling a two-dimensional space with no gaps or overlaps). He eventually incorporated these ornate elements in his representations of the natural world: People, animals, and objects seemed to rise from the page while also demonstrating the endlessness of infinity. As a result, Escher’s work is recognized both in the art world and in the scientific community.
Admiration from a New Audience
After decades of being largely ignored by the artistic establishment, Escher suddenly found himself championed by San Francisco hippies, who reproduced his black-and-white woodcuts as psychedelic posters—usually without asking his permission or paying him royalties. He was both gratified and uncomfortable by the interest of a community that he did not understand. When Mick Jagger asked Escher to design the cover of the next Rolling Stones album, Escher declined, signing off “by the way, you should not address me as Maurits. It is M.C. Escher to you.”
Underwriting for the Film Department is provided by Tenaris and the Vaughn Foundation. Generous funding is provided by Nina and Michael Zilkha; The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea; Franci Neely; Carrin Patman and Jim Derrick; Lois Chiles Foundation; ILEX Foundation; L’Alliance Française de Houston; and The Foundation for Independent Media Arts.