Maurits Cornelis Escher’s 1947 lithograph “Up and Down” is considered one of the artist’s primary works as a printmaker. Escher, known for his depictions of landscapes, towns, and buildings in his works, explored the use of mathematics to transform his subjects by analyzing objects and figures. “Up and Down” is a surrealist artwork with an architectural subject.
The lithograph features a winding staircase with multiple landings that connect to different levels of upside-down rooms. The stairs twist in various directions which create an optical illusion where it is unclear whether one is going up or down. Adding to the surrealistic feeling are the inverted figures on some landings that serve to confuse perspective even further.
Escher’s use of intricate lines gives this artwork a high level of detail while his understanding of math makes it evident through symmetry and perspective transformations. Escher was fascinated with impossible shapes that created unusual distortions, which show well in “Up and Down.” This signed and numbered edition print was estimated to sell at more than 38% above its mid-estimate price during one auction.
Overall, this work encapsulates Maurits Cornelis Escher’s style well by exploring architecture through mathematic transformations that produce intricate details within the print.