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The way of the master

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 figure 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 left for a faraway land, Italy in this case. There he studied and practiced hard on his skills. When he returned to his native country, he had become a master. He could 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 their skills by starting a school. There they would teach their students so they could learn kung fu, karate, aikido, etc. Escher never had any pupils.

A young Bruce Lee with Kung Fu grandmaster Yip Man
Student and teacher in the movie The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)

Pai Mei, teacher to The Bride (Uma Thurman) in Kill Bill Vol. 1
David Carradine as Caine in the American television series Kung Fu (1972-1975)

More Escher today