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International Congress of Mathematicians 1954

On 2 September 1954 the International Congress of Mathematicians opened in Amsterdam. On the initiative of the ICM a large one-man exhibition on Escher was held in the Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam professor of Mathematics N.G. de Bruijn, chairman of the organising committee, defended the notion that Escher’s work represented one of the key intersections between art and mathematics.

The congress and the exhibition proved to be a boon for Escher in terms of putting him in contact with mathematicians. Congress attendees visited the exhibition in droves and were deeply impressed by it. In the preface to the catalogue De Bruijn wrote about the playfulness with which Escher took on mathematics. A key point in understanding what fascinates mathematicians in their work. In the catalogue Escher himself wrote candidly (for the first time, in fact) about his own motives and his position as an artist. This was also the first time he labelled himself as an artist. During the congress he delivered a speech that was highly successful. The congress and the exhibition provided him with many new buyers. More importantly, they brought him friends in the mathematical community.

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