Reptiles (1943) by Maurits Cornelis Escher

Reptiles - Maurits Cornelis Escher - 1943

Artwork Information

ArtistMaurits Cornelis Escher
Dimensions33.4 x 38.5 cm (13 1/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
Art MovementSurrealism

About Reptiles

The artwork “Reptiles” is a lithograph created by Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher in 1943. The piece, which measures 33.4 by 38.5 cm, belongs to the Surrealism movement and can be categorized within the animal painting genre. Escher’s work is known for its intricate detail and thought-provoking illusionary content, often exploring the boundaries between reality and fantasy.

In “Reptiles,” Escher expertly employs his signature style to craft a scene that captures viewers’ attention both for its technical precision and its surreal composition. The artwork depicts a desk upon which several items are arranged: a book, an open book with a tessellation drawing of reptiles, a hexagonal dodecahedron, a plant, a glass of water, and a bottle. Central to the scene is the interplay between the two-dimensional drawing of the reptiles and the three-dimensional world around it. The reptiles appear to come to life, crawling off the page of the sketchbook, round the objects on the desk, and eventually, in a loop-like manner, return back to the drawing. This creates an optical illusion in which the boundary between the drawn and real worlds is blurred.

Escher’s masterful use of light and shadow, along with the precise detailing of textures — from the scales of the reptiles to the weave of the textiles — contributes to the illusion’s realism. The lithograph is monochromatic, relying on the stark contrast between light and dark areas to accentuate depth and volume. The composition is arranged such that the viewer’s eye is led in a circuitous path, mirroring the reptiles’ journey between two dimensions. Overall, “Reptiles” is an exquisite example of Escher’s enduring fascination with the perception of reality and his talent for visual storytelling through geometric and surrealistic exploration.

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