How did Escher
make his prints?

M.C. Escher was a graphic artist; a printmaker. He didn't make paintings or sculptures, but prints – images produced by a process of transfer from one surface to another, enabling them to be multiplied. Escher made his first print when he was seventeen, and his last when he was seventy-one. By the end of his life, he had made 448 prints and more than 2000 drawings and sketches.

Apart from the artist who creates it, something that is absolutely necessary to produce a print is a surface from which to print from. The printable surface is called a matrix, which can be made of any material, but is usually made of wood, metal or lithographic stone. Escher used these materials for three very different print techniques – linocut, woodcut and wood engraving (relief printing); etching and mezzotint (intaglio printing); and lithography (planographic printing). Most printmakers throughout history mastered just one or two of these print techniques, but as you see in this exhibition, Escher was accomplished in all three.

'The printmaker has something of the minstrel spirit; he sings, and in every print that is made from a single block of wood, copper plate or lithographic stone he repeats his song, over and over again. It does not really matter if the occasional sheet gets lost or stained or torn; there are copies enough to convey his thoughts, and if there are not sufficient available he can print a new series, in which each individual work is equally perfect, original and complete, as long as the plate from which it is printed is not worn.'

M.C. Escher

All M. C. Escher's works and texts © The M. C. Escher Company, the Netherlands. All rights reserved