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Maurits Cornelis Escher's quotes about order and chaos, wonders and boundaries, art and science

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"Wonder is the salt of the earth. Originality is merely an illusion." Maurits Cornelis Escher, the author of the famous graphical paradoxes knew what he told. To celebrate the 120th anniversary of the artist’s birthday we gathered the master’s rare quotations to feel anew the moment of discovering his incredible art.

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.

I don’t grow up. In me is the small child of my early days.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Cycle
1938, 47.5×27.9 cm
Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it’s in my basement… let me go upstairs and check.
We adore chaos because we love to produce order.

Simplicity and order are, if not the principal, then certainly the most important guidelines for human beings in general.
Order is repetition of units. Chaos is multiplicity without rhythm.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Relativity
1953, 28.2×29.4 cm
It is impossible for the inhabitants of different worlds to walk or sit or stand on the same floor, because they have differing conceptions of what is horizontal and what is vertical. Yet they may well share the use of the same staircase. On the top staircase illustrated here, two people are moving side by side and in the same direction, and yet one of them is going downstairs and the other upstairs. Contact between them is out of the question because they live in different worlds and therefore can have no knowledge of each other’s existence.

Hands, are the most honest part of the human body, they cannot lie as laughing eyes and the mouth can.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Perfume
Maurits Cornelis Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Portrait of G. A. Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1935, 26.2×20.8 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Hand with a bump
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1921, 27.8×16.6 cm
It is human nature to want to exchange ideas, and I believe that, at bottom, every artist wants no more than to tell the world what he has to say.

I could fill an entire second life with working on my prints.

At moments of great enthusiasm it seems to me that no one in the world has ever made something this beautiful and important.

The things I want to express are so beautiful and pure.
My work is a game, a very serious game.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Self-portrait in the chair

There is something in such laws that takes the breath away. They are not discoveries or inventions of the human mind, but exist independently of us. In a moment of clarity, one can at most discover that they are there and take them into account. Long before there were people on the earth, crystals were already growing in the earth’s crust. On one day or another, a human being first came across such a sparkling morsel of regularity lying on the ground or hit one with his stone tool and it broke off and fell at his feet, and he picked it up and regarded it in his open hand, and he was amazed.

Maurits Cornelis Escher. The sixth day of creation
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1926, 37.5×28.4 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Less and less
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1956, 38×38 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Path of Life III
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1966, 36.6×37.1 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Sketch with stars
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1948, 37×37.5 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Double planetoid
Maurits Cornelis Escher
What I give form to in daylight is only one per cent of what I have seen in darkness.

I don’t use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Sleep
1935, 31.8×24.1 cm
Science and art sometimes can touch one another, like two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which is our human life, and that contact may be made across the boderline between the two respective domains.

I never got a pass mark in math … Just imagine — mathematicians now use my prints to illustrate their books.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Mobius strip 2
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1963, 45.3×20.5 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Man with a cube
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1958, 6.4×6.4 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Whirlpools
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1957, 43.8×23.5 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Eagle (№ 17)
Maurits Cornelis Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Depth
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1955, 32×23 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Fish, duck, turtle (No. 69)
Maurits Cornelis Escher
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Cyclic limit IV
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1960, 41.6×41.6 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Less and less
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1956, 38×38 cm
Maurits Cornelis Escher. House with stairs
Maurits Cornelis Escher
1951, 47.2×23.8 cm
Although I am even now still a layman in the area of mathematics, and although I lack theoretical knowledge, the mathematicians, and in particular the crystallographers, have had considerable influence on my work of the last twenty years. The laws of the phenomena around us -- order, regularity, cyclical repetition, and renewals -- have assumed greater and greater importance for me. The awareness of their presence gives me peace and provides me with support. I try in my prints to testify that we live in a beautiful and orderly world, and not in a formless chaos, as it sometimes seems.

Maurits Cornelis Escher. Reptiles
1943, 33.4×38.7 cm
In mathematical quarters, the regular division of the plane has been considered theoretically. … [Mathematicians] have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain, but they have not entered this domain themselves. By their very nature they are more interested in the way in which the gate is opened than in the garden lying behind it.

I am always wandering around in enigmas. There are young people who constantly come to tell me: you, too, are making Op Art. I haven’t the slightest idea what that is, Op Art. I’ve been doing this work for thirty years now.

For me it remains an open question whether [this work] pertains to the realm of mathematics or to that of art.
So let us then try to climb the mountain, not by stepping on what is below us, but to pull us up at what is above us, for my part at the stars; amen.
Maurits Cornelis Escher. Stars
1948, 32.1×26 cm
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Sources: official site of the artist’s ouevre, as well as video materials, and other publications. Cover illustration: (source): the artist sitting for his famous self-portrait.
Artists mentioned in the article
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