Is it Art or Not? A Husserlian Phenomenology of M.C. Escher’s Art

Valerie Giovanini


Aesthetic pleasure enjoyed while looking at M.C. Escher’s art is undeniable, but what is its character? There is a realistic precision that reflects the artist’s talent. In true Escher-esque style however, the realistic depiction is just enough to lure perception into confounding and disorienting landscapes. How can stairs both ascend and descend, at the same time, for a stair climber going in one direction? This paper will acquaint the reader with phenomenological terminology that Husserl develops in his aesthetic theory, such as the components in image-consciousness, its use of phantasims, interest, immersion and investment, all characterizing what is required to have an aesthetic feeling from fine art. These explications would seem to render art such as Escher’s as incapable of sustaining aesthetic pleasure, however in our final conclusion Escher’s art will prove unlike disqualified art that either remains un-interesting to its perceiver, or relies on a fraudulent semblance of reality. Furthermore, Husserl’s phenomenology of the aesthetic experience only describes the components of image-consciousness but does not account for why an aesthetical feeling can begot from an arrangement of representations, leaving the possibility of various types of aesthetic modes open, such as Escher’s beautiful work that pleasantly disorients aesthetic contemplation.


Philosophy; Phenomenology; M.C. Escher; Edmund Husserl; Husserliana; Phantasims; Absence/Presence; Aesthetics

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