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On 31 May 1919 the Ministry of Defence Escher was rejected for military service. As a result, his plan to finish his secondary school exams, which he had failed the year before, could not be executed. While in service he would start his engineering studies in Delft, but due to this rejection he would never be able to take exams there. This did not bother him much. He lacked real drive to become an architect. He was an artist, which was becoming ever clearer.

He switched to the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. Within a week he met graphic artist Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita, under whose influence his artistic future would really take off. Tree is a woodcut from this period. It reveals a young graphic artist who is searching for his style. Struggling with the material, just like the branches from the tree.

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