Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Escher’s three worlds

M.C. Escher’s lithograph "Three Worlds" is a good illustration of the behavior of light on a smooth water surface.

At the far end of the pond, the water approaches the reflectivity of a perfect mirror because we’re looking straight across it at a very shallow angle. At shallow angles, most of the light bounces off the water (reflection) rather than angling down into it (refraction.)

At steep angles of view, the opposite happens: we see less reflection and more refraction. Therefore the water is dark and we see the fish more than the sky or the trees.

Wikipedia about "Three Worlds"
Color and Light, page 200.
Previously on GurneyJourney: Transparency of Water


MrCachet said...

I've noticed the same thing with the edges, shoulders and necks of glass bottles and jars. I've always been taken by Escher beginning in 1970 when I saw his originals and prints at a gallery in San Francisco. I don't know if the gallery is still there. It was like a loft apartment that had enough upper floor and wall space to display them. Wonderful art. I think I have all of his books, bar none. I don't have yours, yet!

James Gurney said...

The Vorpal Gallery, I think it was called. I went there as a twelve year old or so, and it had a powerful effect on me. There was also a gallery (Alma Gilbert) that had Maxfield Parrishes. I think if an art-receptive kid sees a few good things, it can shape their whole life.

Petr Mores said...

Very true. I remember that I picked up a copy of Turgenev's Sportsman's Sketches from my father's bookshelf as an early teenager mainly because I was struck by a tiny, poor reproduction of a beautiful painting on the sleeve. Only much later I'd find out it was Levitan's Golden Autumn.

MrCachet said...

That's right! It was the Vorpal. Am I wrong in characterizing it as almost a living room atmosphere?

Joel Fletcher said...

THREE WORLDS is one of my favorite Escher prints. And speaking of three, it has 3 prime elements that make great art: a great concept, technical mastery, and charisma. The idea behind it is beautifully subtle, many people might not "get it" if not for the title.

Unknown said...

I ate Escher's stuff up like I was starving when I was in high school. Studying his work helped polish my draftsmanship and yes - gave really good insight into reflective surfaces...he uses them everywhere.