(b Leeuwarden, 17 June 1898; d Hilversum, 27 Mar. 1972).
Dutch printmaker, working principally in the techniques of woodcut and lithography. His early prints were mainly landscapes and townscapes in a bold but fairly naturalistic style; however, from the mid-1930s he turned increasingly to what he described as ‘inner visions’. Many of these were expressed as sophisticated designs in which repeated figures of stylized animals, birds, or fish are arranged in dense, interlocking patterns. From about 1940 the bizarre element in his work became more overtly Surrealist, particularly in the kind of print for which he is now most famous—views of strange imaginary buildings in which he made brilliant play with optical illusion to represent, for example, staircases that seem to go both up and down in the same direction (Ascending and Descending, 1960). Such prints have been of considerable interest to mathematicians as well as to psychologists involved with visual perception. From the 1960s Escher's work has also found a large popular audience, especially among young people, some of whom felt that his images complemented the ‘mind-expanding’ experiences gained through hallucinogenic drugs.