In May 1937 Escher created Metamorphosis I, a narrative work in which the coastal town of Atrani slowly changes into a grid of cubes which subsequently transform into the shape of a caricatured Asian figure. If Atrani stands for the past in this print, the hooded Asian could be seen as the future. Thinking this through, the analogy of Escher’s life with that of an old martial arts master becomes an interesting one.
Escher started his training as a young man close to where he lived. Then he leaves for a faraway land, Italy in this case. There he studies and practices hard on his skills. When he returns to his native country he is a master. He can do stuff nobody else can, in Escher’s case this being ultimate control over the graphic arts. The martial arts were an unknown phenomenon to Escher. The big difference with a martial arts master is that the latter usually would pass on his skills by starting a school. There he would teach his students so they could learn kung fu, karate, aikido, etc. Escher never had any pupils.