The art world was slower to embrace Escher. “The question which continually comes up in regard to Escher’s work is whether his more recent efforts can come under the heading of art,” wrote critic G.H. ‘s-Gravesande in 1940. “He usually moves me deeply, yet I cannot possibly describe all his work as good.” Eventually, the tide turned. In 1951, British fine arts magazine The Studio published a positive review of Escher’s post-1937 work, praising him as a “remarkable and original artist.” His first retrospective was held in The Hague in 1968, when he was 70 years old.
Escher has since had several major museum exhibitions, and mathematicians and scientists remain fascinated with his work. “M.C. Escher: Infinite Dimensions” integrates these eclectic admirers of the Dutch artist. Baer called on Erik Demaine, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to write the label for Escher’s 1957 color woodcut, Regular Division of the Plane I. She also incorporated in voices from the humanities, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and theater director Diane Paulus. “You don’t have to have a meaningful response to Escher being a fine artist to have a meaningful response to the image,” she explains.
The exhibition is a testament to the ways in which Escher’s fantastical works have mesmerized so many through the years. But Baer’s favorite work in the exhibition is uncharacteristically plausible. In Three Worlds (1955), a koi swims lazily through a pond scattered with leaves; trees are reflected on the water’s surface. “I’m not sure there’s anything impossible about it,” Baer says. “He’s showing us that this all exists at once, but we don’t perceive it. I think that’s magical.”