Just an Illusion

By in Art, Philately on September 16, 2019
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What do we see when we look at the drawing on the stamp from Austria (1981) above? Several artists, notably the Dutch ‘master of optical illusion’ Maurits Escher, have incorporated into their designs certain impossible features that cannot exist in three-dimensional space. These include the ‘impossible cube’ on the stamp above, inspired by his designs and the ‘impossible triangle’ by the Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvärd, shown on the first of the three stamps from Sweden (1982) in the continuation of this article.

For hundreds of years people have been fascinated by mathematical and optical puzzles and, within the plethora of subjects available for the stamp collector, the topic also exists.

Oscar Reutersvärd’s designs on the stamps above were engraved by the incredible Czeslaw Slania (see article dated February 1, 2018). Reutersvärd (born 1915 – died 2002) was a Swedish graphic artist, who in 1934 pioneered the art of 3D drawings that might initially seem feasible, yet cannot be physically constructed.

In 2010 the Swiss Post Office issued a set of three optical art stamps, designed by Youri Messen-Jaschin, an artist of Latvian origin who was born in Switzerland. They feature a red sphere with a background of intersecting spirals, a pattern of coloured squares, and a dramatic arrangement of mainly black-and-white concentric circles and vertical lines. The designs are arranged to give the illusion of movement.

The sheet above was issued by Belgium in 2014. Looking from left to right can you see: 1. A clown? 2. How many pencils? 3. Moving cubes? 4. Key and human profile? 5. Find the number?

The stamps above and below celebrate designs made by Victor Vasarely (1906-1997), a Hungarian-French artist, who is widely accepted as a leader of the op art movement. Shown here are stamps from France (1977) and Hungary (1979).

Macau, an autonomous region on the south coast of China issued the above minisheet entitled ‘Science and Technology – Magic Squares’ in 2104. An Yu ancient Chinese story concerns the Emperor Yu, who was standing on the bank of a river when a turtle emerged with 1 to 9 on its back in a 3×3 square pattern with numbers in each row, column and diagonal adding to the same sum – 15. This arrangement of numbers, the ‘Luo Shu’ acquired great mystic significance and led eventually to larger such magic squares. The Macau stamps above show a variety of magic squares, and the values of the stamps themselves form a Luo Shu magic square.  

Also from Macau 2014, the abovementioned Emperor Yu and the fable of the turtle.

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