Friday, April 29, 2011

Escher's Waterfall Illusion

Escher's waterfall illusion
The Waterfall Illusion by Escher, like his other drawings, is a sublime example of 3D illusions drawn in 2D. Some of the images are not so impossible to recreate in real life.

A recent example I discovered was his 1961 drawing of a Waterfall Illusion recreated in real life. The illusion only works from one viewpoint but this is necessary with many illusions.

How the Waterfall Illusion works

While most two-dimensional artists use relative proportions to create an illusion of depth, Escher here and elsewhere uses conflicting proportions to create the visual paradox. The Waterfall Illusion has the structure of a Penrose triangle, an impossible object designed independently by Roger Penrose and Oscar Reutersvärd.

Below is a video of a clever model reconstruction of the Waterfall Illusion drawing. Using elements cut in perspective the illusion comes alive when seen from a particular viewpoint. Many Renaissance churches used this single viewpoint idea to achieve fantastic effects on their ceilings where a domed vault looks like a square tower rising to the heavens.

Below is a more *bare bones* setup of the Waterfall Illusion where we are not shown the setup from different perspectives.

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