Miscellany 1-20

[1] HAND-PRINTED DESIGN ON SILK WITH DOGLIKE ‘LION’ MOTIF (1)
c. 1924-1926
Hand-printed design on silk using two individual blocks: Gold and silver ink on black satin.
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, pages 10 and 286.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 11.
Based on: Drawing 1 [Doglike Lion], 1926-1927

This is the first of a series of five designs of the same period, all printed on fabric. This is also the first in a mini series, a subset of two, of which this itself has a colour variation (No.2, below).
     This design merely repeats the drawing and colouring scheme (albeit using different colours) of the numbered periodic drawing (No.1), of c.1926. The motif is of a fanciful nature, of which the resemblance to the above described creature (titled by Escher) is tenuous, to say the least. However, as this is derived from the earliest drawings, consequently not too much should be read into this as regards quality, as unavoidably these are essentially of an experimental nature as regards his foray into tessellation.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[2] HAND-PRINTED DESIGN ON SILK WITH DOGLIKE ‘LION’ MOTIF (2)
c.1924-1926
Hand-printed design on silk: red, dark blue and gold.
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 286.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 286.
Based on: Drawing 1 [Doglike Lion], 1926-1927

The second in the series of five, and furthermore the second and final one of the mini ‘sub-series of that set. Exactly the same motifs are used as with 1 (above), although the colouring scheme is indeed different, with ‘doglike lions’ coloured in a way so that each is coloured contiguously in chain-like fashion. However, such a colouration is not the most elegant, as it breaks a colour contrast rule (subsequently discussed by Escher) that states for contiguous regions that these should be of a distinct colour (thereby aiding the discernment of each motif), of which this is clearly does not. This, however, was the exception, as he rigorously applied this rule throughout all his other works.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[3] HAND-PRINTED DESIGN ON SILK WITH LION MOTIF (1)
c.1926
Hand-printed design on silk using four individual blocks: red, gold, and dark blue on ivory silk
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 10.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, detail, page 11 and Life and Work, detail, page 140.
Based on: Variation of drawing 3 [Lion], 1926-1927.

The third in a series of five, of which this is the first in a ‘mini subset’ of two alike compositions. Escher uses a variation of drawing 2, essentially retaining the same outline whilst improving on the viewpoint of the ‘lion’, this now being viewed from the rear, rather than the side, which is an improvement in terms of aesthetics, as the creature is better in an anatomical sense (albeit still much remains to be desired about the inherent quality). A further change has occurred with the ‘lion’, as it now has a gaping mouth, this occurring to ‘accommodate’ the improvement of outline (above). In addition, more attention is paid to the detail of the motif itself, with claw, tail and mouth markings now shown.
    The number of colours has also been changed, with an increase from three to four, with each orientation of the motif having a single colour.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[4] HAND-PRINTED DESIGN ON SILK WITH LION MOTIF (2)
c.1926
Hand-printed design on silk using four individual blocks: black, gold and silver on turquoise satin (page 286).
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 286.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 286.
Based on: Variation of drawing 2 [Lion], 1926-1927

The fourth in a series of five, of which this is the second in a mini subset of two. Escher uses the same ‘revised’ motif of 3 (above), with a further colouring scheme variation of a somewhat whimsical nature, with an essentially three-coloured example in which contiguous motifs are coloured with the same colour, thereby breaking the contrast rule. This is then coloured whimsically in which the arbitrary patch given is given an additional colour (black) interjected with alternate motifs at the border. Artistically, this may be pleasing, but in a mathematical sense such a colouring scheme is very poor due to its arbitrary nature.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[5] HAND-PRINTED DESIGN ON SATIN WITH BATS
c.1926
Hand-printed bat pattern on satin. Gold, silver, red, green, blue and black on black satin. Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 10.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 11, detail, page 230.
Based on: Not known.

Although described as a ‘bat’, such an unambiguous description is misplaced here, as the creature is somewhat fanciful, the only reference to bat-like features being the wings, and furthermore, in comparison to a real-life bat these are most stylised.
    Schattschneider, page 11 asserts that this may have arisen as a result of a pattern found in the Alhambra, with Escher’s sketch No.5 on page 32. However, this is unlikely, as that is based upon a rhombus, whilst this is of a regular hexagon. Another possibility is a drawing from 24 May 1936 (The World of M.C. Escher, page 129 of the lower right), which has a like symmetry, and is furthermore undoubtedly of a better bat-like appearance due to more obvious wings. However, as this is also based upon a rhombus, there is no direct link in these as regards the underlying polygon.
    In contrast to the preceding examples on fabric based upon a numbered periodic drawing, this does not such a drawing. Therefore, presumably this must have arisen as a result of studies that Escher did not go to the trouble of showing as a numbered drawing, perhaps surprisingly so, as despite this being the better in terms of quality, albeit still of an inherently poor quality nature.
    An additional contrast is the type of underlying tessellation, this being based upon a simple opposite translation of a hexagon, whilst other drawings of this period are much more complex.
    Although this could have been coloured in a minimum of three colours, Escher chose a far more elaborate coloration scheme, using six colours. Quite why he chose this is unclear, as the minimum colouring would be compatible with the symmetry of the composition.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[6] DESIGN DRAWING FOR INTARSIA PANEL WITH FISH
July 1940
Watercolour and gouache, scale 1:2.
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, pages 266-267, with Escher quote from De Delver.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 267.
Based on: Variation of drawing 32 [Fish], April 1940.

Upon receiving a commission to compose a series of three panels for Leiden Town Hall, Escher composed a series of three design drawings in watercolour and gouache (detailed above).
    Escher uses a variation of the fish (above), to form a rectangular composition with a cyclic metamorphosis. Dark and light coloured fish are shown against a background opposite to their shade, with the fish in these areas released from their underlying grid, albeit the outline remains constant. Presumably, Escher thought that the quality of the fish was so good that any further refinement was unnecessary.
    In contrast to the ‘one-fish, one-colour’ of the drawing, these are more innovative (and therefore more interesting), as they are individually two-toned, of which for each coloured body and eye spot, the head, tail and fins are of a lighter and darker nature for the yellow and brown coloured ones respectively.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[7] INTARSIA WOOD PANEL WITH FISH
July 1940
Intarsia wood panels, 55.7 x 64.2 cm
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 266-267 and 292. A brief quote by Escher from De Delver is on pages 266-267.
Pictured in: Magic Mirror, page 61.
Based on: Variation of drawing 32 [Fish], April 1940.

As the intarsia wood panel simply repeats the design drawing, further comment is superfluous as to the intricacies of the design, as the above is thus deferred to.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[8] DESIGN DRAWING FOR INTARSIA WOOD PANEL WITH BIRDS AND FISH
July 1940 (unexecuted).
Watercolour and Gouache
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 268.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, detail, page 269.
Based on: Drawings 34A, 34B March [Bird/Fish], 1941.

Regrettably, research on this is hindered due to a lack of background detail, with only the briefest comment in Schattschneider, along with the drawing appearing in detail only. Furthermore, the drawing was not used as intended for the purpose of the commission, as this went unexecuted.
    For this, Escher uses bird and fish motifs that first must have occurred in study form, as the numbered drawing was completed after the panel.
    As with the preceding design drawing, this is of a complex nature, with a considered composition, albeit quite what idea or concept that is being portrayed remains obscure.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[9] INTARSIA PANEL WITH CLOCK
1940
Intarsia panel (Satinwood root veneer and light wood species) 115 x 151 cm. For the mayors office in the raadzaal (council hall).
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 267-268.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 268 (monochrome) and World, page 150 (monochrome).
Based on: Variation of drawing 23 [(Birds], 1938. Also, drawing A2, page 231, 1940.

Regrettably, research is both hindered by the lack of publication of the design drawing of which this is presumably based upon along with only monochromatic pictures.
    Escher uses a variation of the numbered drawing (above), from which the birds are arranged around a clock face. In a compositional sense, this is of good aesthetic quality, ably illustrating the epigram ‘time flies’, with bird motifs developing in outline and detail around the extremities of an clock, these then being released.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[10] INTARSIA WOOD PANEL WITH BIRDS
1940
Satinwood root veneer and light wood species, 112 x 266 cm. For the mayors office in the raadzaal (council hall)
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 268.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry page 269 (monochrome); World, page 150 (monochrome) and Magic Mirror, page 61.
Based on: Drawing A2 [Four Birds], 1940.
Concept drawing: Visions of Symmetry, page 319.

Regrettably, research is hindered by the lack of publication of the design drawing of which this is presumably based upon.
    This panel depicts the growth of Leiden since 1186-1940, with successive rings of the expanding city emphasised in contrasting shades. On the outside of the town, fields develop into birds (reminiscent of Day and Night), with the black birds, upon their release flying over the borders, whilst the white birds form a ‘free formation’ for the purposes of the composition.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[11] DESIGN DRAWING FOR BIRDS WALLPAPER
c. 1940
Watercolour and gouache 700 x 700 mm (unexecuted).
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 296.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 297.
Based on: Drawing 47 [Two Birds], July 1942.

Regrettably, research is hindered, as this appears to have been composed of as a ‘series of two’, with a repeating unit that remains unpublished.
    Although this can be seen to be based upon drawing 47, more exactly, as that succeeds the design drawing the genesis must indeed have been of an earlier period, of a study type that Escher did not compose a finished numbered drawing (as was his usual practise) until much later.
    The design drawing is notable for the depth of the composition, with numerous birds, coloured in a relatively complex manner, considerably different to the flat, one-motif, one- colour examples of the numbered drawings.
    Although intended as wallpaper, i.e. of a repeating unit, the square block as such will not repeat, although a repeating unit can indeed be located. Presumably, Escher here shows an arbitrary patch rather than the repeating unit per se.
    Quite what the composition is portraying here is unclear, as this lacks the elegant obviousness of others, such as Day and Night and Sky and Water I. However, almost certainly there is indeed some concept behind this, as cyclical changes occur, with birds most fully developed against an essentially black and white background.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[12] CARVED SPHERE WITH FISH
1940
Beechwood, stained in four colours, diameter 140 mm.
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 245; Kaleidocycles, page 25; Magic Mirror, page 95 and Art and Science, page 197. Additionally, an Escher essay ‘Approaches to Infinity’ reproduced in World, pages 39-42.
Pictured in: Magic, page 91 (enlarged); Magic Mirror, page 97; Art and Science, page 197 (monochrome) and Kaleidocycles, page 25 (monochrome).
Based on: Drawing 20 [Fish], March 1938.

This was the first of four distinct carved spheres, in which Escher used a minor variation of the fish motif of drawing 20 shown at lower right, in Escher's own words, ‘improved motif’. This presumably refers to the fins, as they are now more streamlined, albeit the original tessellation is still more than adequate.
    Escher briefly discusses this sphere (above, page 41), in which he emphases the infinity aspect, of which although better shown than with a periodic drawing is still limited in extent, as the twelve fish shown are not an infinite number, outlined in more detail (above).

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[13] HAND PRINTED DESIGN OF REPTILES
December 1942
Gold and black on turquoise, satin, diameter 690 mm
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 271.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 271.
Based on: Drawing 56 [Reptiles], November 1942.

This marks a return to printing periodic drawings on fabrics as first shown in c. 1926, and is the first of essentially a mini-series of three, all based upon a rotational theme.
    Escher simply repeats the motif of drawing 56, and as this is based upon rotational symmetry, a natural composition would be to show this aspect to the fore, of which Escher thereby composes an appropriate circular design and format.
    A notable aspect to this is the sheer number of motifs, considerably more so than in the drawing. Consequently, the ‘colouring scheme’ is thus more apparent, with ‘chains’ of motifs thus being apparent, of which such an effect is not as discernable on the drawing due to the relatively few in number of motifs.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[14] FISH
c. 1942
Woodcut printed in four colours on silk
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 271.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 271 and Life and Work, page 63.
Based on: Drawing 20 [Fish], March 1938.

The second of the series of three, in which Escher simply repeats the ‘improved motif’ on drawing 20.
    The composition emphasises the order 4 rotational symmetry of the fish motif with an appropriate composition, with the motifs shown in four orientations and colours, along with judiciously omitted fish on the extremities, these being seen distinct against an opposite colour background.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[15] HAND-PRINTED DESIGN OF FLATFISH (1)
1943
Gold and black on red, silk 450 x 450 mm
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, pages 271-272 and 299.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, pages 271 and 299.
Based on: Drawing 59 [Two Fish], November 1942.

The third and final in the series of 1942-1943 prints on fabrics, in which Escher repeats the flatfish motifs of drawing 59.
    In contrast to the other two prints in which the motifs possess intrinsic rotational symmetry, and therefore are thus more suitable for a rotational composition, this does not have such inherent symmetry of motif, and therefore the rotational composition in this case is thus somewhat contrived. In style, the composition is very much alike as with second of the series, with the same omitted fish giving a differently coloured background, albeit here Escher uses a distinct colour separate from the fishes.
    Escher made prints with a variation of the basic scheme here, with three others, unfortunately, not all yet published, described in Schattschneider, above.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[16] HAND PRINTED DESIGN OF FLATFISH (2)
1943
Green and Gold on ivory 336 x 336 mm
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 299.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 299.
Based on: Drawing 59 [Two Fish], November 1942.

This is essentially a variation of [15], as the composition is alike, the difference being the number of motifs. Consequently, as the motifs remain the same, the same comments apply here, thus rendering further comment superfluous.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[17] CARVED SPHERE, ‘HEAVEN AND HELL’
1942
Maple, stained in two colours, diameter 235 mm
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 245 (includes Escher letter to C.V.S. Roosevelt).
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 244; World, page 151 (monochrome); Magic Mirror, page 41 and Magic, page 92 (enlarged).
Based on: Drawing 45 [Angels and Devils], December 1941.

The second of four (non-related) carved spheres. Escher uses the angels of devils of the drawing (above), this pairing forming an aesthetic combination in a tessellation sense, due to their (opposite) relationship, and therefore ideal for works based upon a unifying theme.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[18] CARVED SPHERE WITH GROTESQUES
1943
Beechwood, stained in two colours, diameter 130 mm
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 244 and World, page 152 (monochrome).
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 245.
Based on: Drawing 53 [Two Clowns], July 1942.

The third in the series of four carved spheres. Escher uses the drawing (above), making minor variations of the grotesque motifs.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[19] CARVED SPHERE WITH REPTILES
1949
Maple, stained in four colours, diameter approx 18 cm.
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, page 245.
Pictured in: Visions of Symmetry, page 245 (as an illustration).
Based on: Not known.

Upon receiving a commission in 1949 from P. Kessler, who was a notable collector (and regular correspondent) of Escher's works, this then led to another carved sphere (of 12 motifs), the fourth and final of the ‘series’. Presumably, as there is no direct numbered drawing as the source, this must therefore have existed in study. Interestingly, this is very much alike in style with the reptiles of drawing 104, of May 1959.

Last updated 14 November 2005

 

[20] DESIGN DRAWING FOR TAPESTRY
1949 (Tapestry made in 1950)
Pictured in: Life and Work, page 75.
Discussed in: Visions of Symmetry, pages 30, 272 and 292 and Life and Work, pages 67 and 74.
Based upon: Drawing 29 [Bird/Fish], December 1939.

Upon receiving a commission in 1949 from the weaver Edmond de Cneudt, Escher composed a design to be executed as a tapestry. This shows a metamorphosis in a vertical orientation, essentially consisting of two distinct tessellations joined together by a fish motif with related elements to both drawings. Specifically, drawing 29 was used for the top half, whilst another drawing, which must exist in study form, as the motifs are not shown as a numbered drawing, was similarly employed for the lower half. More exactly, this refers to the motifs ⅓ and ⅔ down, as at the extremities and centre the motifs are shown fully developed and released from their underlying grid. The fish and bird motif did subsequently appear as a numbered drawing, 121, in 1964. Quite why Escher did not produce a numbered drawing at their period of creation (as was his usual practise) is unclear, as the motifs of drawing 121 are of a most high quality.
    In terms of quality, an exemplary metamorphosis occurs, the transformation taking place in a consistent manner with no abrupt changes that would spoil the effect. However, this is shown in the strictest sense for its own intrinsic sake, as a vertical transformation, from birds to fish to birds is an arbitrary composition. In contrast, the print Sky and Water I, of a similar concept, is more succinct, and therefore in that sense better.
    As the tapestry, woven in 1951 and belonging to the Gemeentemuseum in Arnhem essentially repeats the design drawing, further comment is superfluous as regards the merits of the metamorphosis, as the same comments above apply here as well.

Last updated 14 November 2005

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