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Self-portrait, 1919

On 6 September 1919 Maurits Escher started his lessons at the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. Within as little as a week he had already made a radical decision: he would switch from architecture to graphic arts.

This decision was helped greatly by the support of his teacher in graphic arts, Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita. He noticed the talent of the 21-year-old, who had shown him some of his work earlier that week. This was precisely the kind of prompting Maurits needed. He had been dabbling in the graphic arts for a while now, but this switch of course marks the point at which he made a definitive decision to pursue a career in the arts. It was at this juncture that he made this penetrating self-portrait. Maurits stares straight at the viewer. Challenging, self-assured, a severe gaze. As though he had found confidence in his own ability and was using this to reinvent himself.

Read more about Escher’s early steps in the arts in ‘Finger exercises brimming with promise’, a story by former curator Dunja Hak, and in this article on his early days in Haarlem in 1919.

More Escher today