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Maurits Cornelis Escher • Graphics, 1953, 28.2×29.4 cm
About the artwork
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Art form: Graphics
Style of art: Surrealism
Technique: Lithography
Date of creation: 1953
Size: 28.2×29.4 cm
Artwork in selections: 33 selections

Description of the artwork «Relativity»

The interest in geometry caused Escher’s fascination with optical illusions. As a child, he spent many hours studying the wisdom of carpentry, which perfectly develops spatial imagination. Subsequently, training at the School of Architecture added to these lessons. The adherence to the depiction of mathematically verified objects can be traced even in the artist’s early works — landscapes of Italian nature, cityscapes and church interiors.

Improving his drawing technique, Maurits enthusiastically experimented with non-Euclidean space, and the result of these experiments was the world-famous optical illusions by Escher. The Relativity painting, the description of which we invite you to read, Escher created in 1953.

An unprepared viewer may be perplexed by this work: at the first glance at the picture, the stairs, which look quite ordinary, are striking. However, one has only to look closely and trace where they lead, as it becomes clear why Maurits Escher titled his work “Relativity”. His lithograph is a visual confirmation of the relativity of human perception and the laws of geometry and physics.

In the Relativity painting, we can see a moment from the life of the several worlds which are united by common stairs and the plane of the canvas. Life is in full swing in each of these worlds. Two people are walking along the same staircase, but they never cross their eyes, because they do not even suspect the existence of each other. Their close location is deceptive: while one of them goes down the stairs, the second, moving in the same direction, rises up. The fact that the ceiling in the coordinates of an inhabitant of one of the picture worlds is a floor or a wall for inhabitants of another world. To emphasize this point, Escher used arched openings and female figurines performing the bridge stretch that correlate with them.

Particularly noteworthy is the fact that Maurits Escher created the Relativity painting by the method of lithography. First, he “cut out” the image on the polished stone surface, and after having applied paint, made a print on paper. Imagine what a huge amount of work the artist has done when transferring to stone the images he held in his imagination!

Like many other brilliant works, this picture acquired the status of a cult and became a source of inspiration: for example, the Relativity can be seen in an episode of the Family Guy animated series. It presents Escher as a rapper, standing inside his own lithograph and rapping. In another animated series (Futurama), characters in search of an apartment find themselves in the Escher’s house. The Escher’s idea of an unusual space was also used by the creators of the Labyrinth 1986 fantasy adventure film.