Periodic Drawings 1-30

DRAWING 1 [DOG-LIKE LION]
Rome, 1926 or 1927
India ink, pencil and watercolour
Related work: Hand printed designs on silk using two individual blocks. Gold and silver ink on black satin and gold and silver ink on red satin.

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see 5, 6, 7, 8, 11’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different in all instances to drawing 1.
As to be expected, his first (recorded; were there others?) effort leaves a lot to be desired in various ways, having many shortcomings. As such, the creature is not readily identifiable, generously being described by Schattschneider as a ‘dog-like lion’. (This was likely influenced by Escher, as he described the creatures as ‘lions’, p.10 visions, but the source of this is not given) Plainly, the ‘dog-like lion’ is out of proportion and perspective, with its head being far too large for the body, along with its left/right legs, of both back and front being shown on the same level. Furthermore, the legs are best described as appendages, all of which contributes to a most unaesthetic looking creature. Another aspect to this, pertaining to the symmetry, is that the motifs are of necessity at 180° to each other, thus resulting in the creatures being upside down in relation to each other, of which Escher, subsequently, for aesthetic reasons, did not approve of, referring to such motifs in this ‘upright/upside down’ relation to each other as ‘absurd’.
Possibly, this (and drawing No.2) was influenced in both substance and description by his visit to the
Alhambra of the same year, in which amongst the ornaments are the well-known ‘Court of the Lions’, of which this has resemblances to. However, due to both drawings’ rudimentary nature this potential source remains speculation. An illustration of the lions is to be found in Treasures of the Alhambra by Washington Irving, pages 48-49.
Of interest is the underlying tessellation system used, of which a parallelogram with 180° rotational symmetry along the longest side is used. Such a choice can be seen in many others of his earliest efforts, namely with the drawings detailed above.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, green and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created 14 November 2005. Updated: 24 November. 2 August 2012 (minor revision)
 

DRAWING 2 [LION]
Rome, 1926 or ’27
Pencil, ink and watercolour
Related work: Hand printed designs on silk using four individual blocks. Red, gold and dark blue on ivory silk and black, gold and silver on turquoise satin.

Escher notes on the drawing ‘See No.16’, referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to drawing 2.
This is possibly the second attempt at composing a lion-like motif, as detailed above. If so, the motif is indeed more lion-like, albeit still most rudimentary, essentially unworthy of such an exact designation. However, even when due allowance is made for the shortcomings, this still cannot be said to be too great an achievement. The most notable objection concern the legs, which although are broadly acceptable individually are not in an anatomically correct position, with the creatures right leg adopting a most unlikely place in such matters. In addition, the right hind leg emanates from the middle of the lion, with the foot ending slightly in front of the front left leg. Furthermore, all four legs are shown in the same plane, thereby contributing to a lack of three-dimensions. All of this thus results in a creature with considerable shortcomings, of which despite these obvious drawbacks the difference in quality between the two efforts is noticeable, this being the better.
Upon the completion of these initial efforts, Escher was evidently displeased with the quality, and furthermore disenchanted with the motifs adopting an unnatural upside down orientation, this thus showing his lack of understanding of the underlying mathematics at the time. Consequently, upon being discouraged by any degree of success he then returned to his landscapes, effectively ending any further study until 1936, whereby upon a visit to the Alhambra and the La Mezquita in Córdoba thus reawakened his interest.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, green and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005
 
 

DRAWING 3 [WEIGHTLIFTER]
Château-d’Oex, October 1936
Pencil and watercolour
Preparatory drawing:
Visions of Symmetry, pages 18 and 102.

Following his second trip to the La Mezquita, Córdoba and the Alhambra, Escher was suitably inspired to once more return to tessellation, of which this effort here can be seen to be directly based on a tessellation with the appropriate symmetry of line to be found there (denoted as X on the upper left sketch, of the fourth quarter, Visions, page 17). As such, this is once more an improvement of the preceding examples in terms of the inherent quality of the motifs, as these are now instantly more recognisable. In broad terms the figure is in proportion, albeit the neck is somewhat elongated.
Interestingly, this is one of the rare examples whereby a study of sorts can be seen (above), albeit the all-important genesis remains unseen, with the drawing on page 18 presumably ready for transfer to squared paper, albeit this oddly enough contains more detail than the finished, numbered drawing. Interestingly, this marks the first such example of an apparent mini series of human-like motifs immediately following on from this (a motif, inexcusably, that is absent to all intents and purposes in Escher's later work), from which it must therefore be assumed that he was actively seeking to compose such figures.
Another aspect of this is that the outline can be seen to have the potential for another motif, suitable for a beetle type of creature as shown from above.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: blue, orange and white (unstated). In contrast to the preceding drawings in which the minimum colouring was forced, this drawing, due to its symmetry system has more possibility in the colouring. As such, Escher retains the minimum colouring, using three colours, although an alternative, in which the symmetry of the composition is focused upon, of which four colours are required, is equally valid. No rendition. The complexities of this are discussed more fully in Essay 8,
Coloration and Rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 30 December 2005 (reference to essay)
 

 

DRAWING 4 [CHINESE BOY]
Château-d’Oex, October 1936
Pencil and watercolour
Related graphic work:
Metamorphosis I, May 1938 (cat. 298).

Schattschneider, in Visions of Symmetry, page 286 states categorically that this tessellation has as its source a tiling pattern sketched by Escher from the Alhambra (shown as the 'third quarter', on page 17), albeit the tessellation (with a single motif separated on page 286 for the sake of clarity), bears only a passing resemblance. As such, only the upper region is suggestive of the figure, namely that of the hat of the boy. Schattschneider refers to Escher's sketchbooks showing how he developed this design (but as ever, infuriatingly, these sketches are not shown). Uncertainty here is caused by this comment, as this may be referring to this sketch (page 17) or of true preparatory drawings. However, if her supposition is based upon the sketch, then such attribution is dubious, as the lower two prongs of the trident motif can be regarded as neither arms or legs, as they fall 'in between' these limbs. Perhaps more accurate is to state that this diagram acted as the underlying scaffold for the drawing, i.e. the usage of the lines symmetry arrangements.
Of interest is to why Escher here chose to show an
oriental figure (boy) rather than a more 'natural' western one. The reason for this concerns the fact that the figure has as its outline a hat that is strongly reminiscent of the type that Chinese peasants wear in the field. This being so, it is then aesthetically ideal to make the rest of the figure correspond to this, of which Escher has done so with the slanting eyes of Chinese people, albeit these are portrayed most simply. Consequently, the individual elements are thus unified, and so the tessellation is thus better than with disparate western and oriental aspects in combination.
Such matters aside, this is the second of the ‘mini series of three’ concerning a human figure, of which this is a fine example, the figure being roughly in proportion, with no gross distortions, albeit with reservation; the head to body ratio is questionable.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: blue, orange and white (unstated). No rendition.
The ‘rendition’, such as it is, is most poor, as it is crudely coloured, of one colour for a single motif, and with the bare minimum amount of detail, barely discernable, denoting clothing and facial expressions. As such, this is in contrast to the inherently higher quality figure itself, used in the subsequent print, as its features are more lifelike. Consequently, with only a little more effort, this could have thus reflected such quality and so have been 'transformed' into a more exalted one. However, perhaps such comments are unduly harsh on Escher here, as this was only his fourth such drawing, which with such pioneering work to thus expect ‘perfection of finish’ for what were probably intended as no more than 'finished sketches' is arguably unrealistic. However, the basic tenet remains that this could so easily have been artistically better.
Created c. 2005. Updated 20 December 2005 (significant additional comments). Minor revision 2 August 2012
 
 

DRAWING 5 [STRONGMAN]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour
Preparatory drawing:
Visions of Symmetry, page 18.

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see 1, 6, 7, 8, 11’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to drawing 5.
As such, the chronology of this is open to debate. Escher first retrospectively added ‘Winter ‘36-’37’ before changing this to ’37-’38 (as he also did with Drawing 6). However, the coloration and rendition matches entirely the same as with drawing 7, of October 1936, thereby suggesting that the stated first date was indeed true, in which case the numbering is therefore incorrect.
Such matters of chronology aside, this is the third in the ‘mini series of three’ human figures, of which this, whilst possessing merits, nonetheless has a shortcoming in proportions, as the head to body ratio is approximately 1: 4 (it should be 1: 8), and  upper body is too large for the legs or vice versa. Furthermore, only the head is delineated, with the other parts of the body left vacant, an unsatisfactory state of affairs. However, shortcomings aside, what is significant here is that in silhouette the figure is readily identifiable, of which for such a early effort is quite remarkable

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, blue and white (unstated). No rendition. The colouring could be regarded as too simplistic – as no blue or red men in real life exist. But again, this is very early, and Escher can be excused on that score.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005. Minor revision 2 August 2012
 

 

DRAWING 6 [CAMEL]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see 1, 5, 7, 8, 11’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to Drawing 6.
Again, this has the same uncertainties over its true chronology as with the preceding example, bearing the same over-inscription.
This tessellation illustrates an aspect as outlined in Essay 3,
Motif Choice, whereby this involves what I term as familiarity of motif. As such, a camel is an animal that is not encountered in everyday life, and therefore ones knowledge as to its relative proportions and distinguishing features is confined to pictures from what is almost certainly general reading or viewing. Therefore, as one is most likely to have no particular reason to be familiar with such matters of detail, unless a camel picture is to hand an assessment of its qualities is not possible. Although the animal in question does indeed possess an undoubted resemblance, upon comparing this with a picture of a real-life camel, in reality the head and neck region will be seen to be too large for the body. Even though this therefore has shortcomings, the tessellation still has much of merit, not least due to the inherent difficulty of composing such a motif, and therefore subsequent rarity. Indeed, as it is the only example of this type in his oeuvre, it is more praiseworthy in a general sense than the more frequently occurring birds and fish. However, shortcomings aside, what is significant here is that in silhouette the figure is readily identifiable, of which for such an early effort is quite remarkable.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, blue and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 20 December 2005 (updating essay reference). Minor revision 2 August 2012
 

 

DRAWING 7 [SQUIRREL]
Château-d’Oex, October 1936
Pencil and watercolour

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see 1, 5, 6, 8, 11’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to drawing 7.
An aspect of interest to this is that the drawing bears an additional numbering, of a faintly pencilled number ‘2’ in the top left hand corner. Further numbering in a like manner for numbers 3-6 follow on with Drawings 8-11, upon which the sequence ends. Strangely, there is no number ‘1’ of this ‘series’. Quite what Escher is intending here is uncertain.
Again, this is another example involving familiarity of motif, of which although such an animal may be more familiar than with the previously discussed camel, it is still nonetheless essentially of an unfamiliar nature. For example, how long should the tail be in proportion to the body? Are the head and ears anatomically correct? Again, although appearing to be broadly correct, without specialised knowledge such matters need research to be sure. Upon comparing this with a picture of a real life squirrel in an suitably likewise pose, Escher's squirrel will be seen to compare most favourably, although to be critical the head should be convex and not concave as shown, and the hind foot is also somewhat too large. However, despite the relatively minor incorrectness of anatomy, it can be said that Escher excelled himself here, composing a fine example, again of an animal that is inherently difficult to compose (his only one), and so worthy of interest and praise in terms of such rarity. As such, despite the above observations as to anatomical correctness, this remains instantly recognisable as a squirrel, albeit the interior detail is barely shown.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, blue and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005
 

 

DRAWING 8 [HORSE]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
Pencil and watercolour

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see 1, 5, 6, 7, 11’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to drawing 8.
Although this without doubt does resemble a horse, and indeed is of relative good quality, the figure once again has shortcomings in terms of proportion. Most notably is that the head and neck is too large for the rest of the horse. Furthermore, the length of the creature is also noticeably lacking in proportion, the shoulders ending at more than half the body length. In addition, the legs are poorly defined in terms of anatomical correctness, a gross simplification of the real animal.
This tessellation also bears a faint inscription, numbered 3.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: reddish brown and two contrasts of blue. No rendition. Of necessity, Escher here uses a three-colouring, albeit the colours used are somewhat strange in terms of their contrast, with a pale and dark blue along with a reddish brown, the dark blue and reddish brown being of similar values resulting in the tessellation not being viewed in a ‘easy’ manner. Furthermore, an additional drawback is that such dark colours result in the interior lines being not readily discernable.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005
 

 

DRAWING 9 [BIRD]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour

A bird motif of undoubted likeness, albeit it has shortcomings, as the upper body appears disjoint with the tail region.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this, surprisingly, given the relative ease of composing such a motif, is that it is the first bird tessellation that Escher undertook, of which later he found that this particular motif, along with fish, are by far the easiest types to use for tessellation purposes. This tessellation also bears a faint inscription, numbered 4.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: red and white (unstated). In contrast to the preceding drawings, this is the first such example whereby a minimum of two colours is a possibility, of which Escher suitably colours. No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005. Minor revision 3 August 2011

DRAWING 10 [FISH]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
India ink, pencil and watercolour

Again, echoing in style the comments of the preceding drawing, surprisingly, given the relative ease of composing, the first fish motif. Of interest here is the background to this tessellation, as the motif can be stacked in two distinct ways, as noted and illustrated schematically by Schattschneider, page 287, having seen Escher's sketches (which remain unpublished). Self-evidentially, Escher was therefore fully aware of the possibilities, albeit of interest is the source underlying the tessellation, as it is most unlikely that Escher, at this early stage of his tessellation studies would have been capable of composing such an involved tessellation. Of interest therefore is to why he did not produce a finished work of both stackings, thereby clearly establishing this principle. Speculating, perhaps Escher was not too concerned about this aspect at such an early stage, and upon due investigation of the possibilities selected what he considered as the best for a definitive, finished work.
As regards the quality of the motif, the underside of the fish has shortcomings, as the body and fin are essentially combined in a vague manner, resulting in a fish of unnatural anatomy in that position. However, apart from this, the fish is generally of a reasonable standard.
This tessellation also bears a faint inscription, numbered 5.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, blue and white (unstated). No rendition.

Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005. Minor revision 3 August 2012

DRAWING 11 [SEAHORSE]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see nos. 1, 5, 6, 7, 8’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to Drawing 11.
A very high quality motif, of which the seahorse nature is instantly recognisable, despite the interior of the creature showing only the barest minimum of detail, consisting solely of a circle for an eye.
This tessellation also bears a faint inscription, numbered 6.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, blue and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005
 

 

DRAWING 12 [BUTTERFLY]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour
Preparatory drawing:
Visions of Symmetry, page 106 and Magic, page 73.
Concept drawing: (for bank-note)
Visions of Symmetry, page 288.
Related work: Design for bank-note background, June 1951 (unexecuted).

A good quality of motif, as it unambiguously resembles a butterfly, albeit heavily stylised, detailed below. This is an example of one of the rare occasions whereby the source of the tessellation is given, of which it can be seen to be derived from a tiling in the Alhambra, of which Schattschneider shows schematically in Visions of Symmetry, page 288 how Escher composed the tessellation. It is self evidently of a simplest possible change, an exemplary example of the possibilities arising from such ‘simple’ tessellations. However, although undoubtedly this does indeed appear butterfly-like, upon comparing of the real thing, it can be seen that this is noticeably stylised, as a real-life butterfly has wings that taper from top to bottom. This is a typical example whereby a lack of knowledge on the part of the viewer attributes life-like resemblance qualities that strictly do not apply, of which I detail in Essay 3, Motif Choice.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: blue and white (unstated). Of interest here is that for the first time an attempt is made of a more imaginative colouring, with the butterflies having spots on their wings of the opposite colour, albeit still of a most basic level in terms of innovation. No rendition.

Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005 (updated essay reference and minor reworking 20 December 2005)

DRAWING 13 [DRAGONFLY]
Ukkel, Winter 1937-1938
India ink, pencil and watercolour
Related graphic work: Plate II,
Regelmatige vlakverderling, June 1957 (cat. 417).
Other related work: Design for tablecloth for van Dissel, ca. 1953 (unexecuted); Design for banknote background, June 1951 (unexecuted).

As such, although this undoubtedly resembles a dragonfly, it is slightly fanciful as when compared with a real-life example, whereupon its shortcomings become evident, such as with the abdomen being concave, where in reality it is straight. Such a relatively rarely encountered creature is typical in that people’s knowledge of it, as outlined in the familiarity of motif, is somewhat sketchy at best, with false credit thus given to an outline resembling the insect. Furthermore, this is shown with only the most modicum of detail, with only the wings being defined, in pencil. As such, this could very easily have been improved by the addition of more detail, by veining of the wings, along with clearly defining the eyes and individual segments of the abdomen.
This is an example whereby the source is known, of which Escher used a given tessellation from his visit to the
Alhambra (reproduced indirectly Visions of Symmetry, page 117) that is of a most ‘simple’ nature. Again, this is an exemplary example of how relatively easy it can be to compose motifs, with ‘all’ that being required is the imagination to see potential motifs in a given tessellating shape.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: blue and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005. Corrected typos 24 November 2006

DRAWING 14 [LIZARD]
Ukkel, November 1937
India ink, pencil and watercolour

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see nos. 3 and 20’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to Drawing 14.
As such, the resemblance to a lizard is of a very pleasing standard. However, it does indeed possess shortcomings, as the lizards are not the most aesthetic, as the left leg essentially blends with the body, thereby having an anatomical inaccuracy. However, apart from this, the rest of the creature is reasonably true to life.
Essentially, this can be said to form the first of a ‘series of two’, as immediately following this he produced a variation apparently of this. However, although these are numbered sequentially, drawing 15 must surely pre-date this, if not in actual drawing than in terms of study, as Drawing 14 can be said to have been derived from Drawing 15. This is surmised by the fact that Drawing 15 is directly based upon a square grid, whilst Drawing 14 can be seen to be a variation of this, with the mouth of the lizard having moved away from the vertex.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: blue, orange and white (unstated). Again, this example, as with drawing 3, has essentially two distinct ways of being coloured, either of a minimum number of colours (three) or as compatible with the symmetry of the motifs (four). No rendition.
Created c. 2005.
 
 

DRAWING 15 [LIZARD]
Ukkel, November 1937, improved April 1963
Ink and watercolour
Discussed in:
Symmetry Aspects, page 52.
Related graphic work:
Development I, November 1937 (cat. 300), Metamorphosis II and III, 1939-1940 and 1967-1968 (cat. 320 and 446).

Escher notes (retrospectively) on the drawing ‘see 23’, this presumably referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to drawing 15.
As stated above, this is, I believe, more likely the first of the ‘series of two’ of lizard drawings. This drawing can be seen to have a subsequent refinement to the original, with an ‘improvement’ in 1963 (of which for reasons why are discussed in the introduction to the essays, Improved Drawings, 2.1.4). This was applied to the top three-quarters of the tessellation, with the motifs being re-coloured and having a decided black outline, along with the interior markings also possessing more emphasis in the same manner. However, by accident or design (possibly the latter, as Escher left the lower quarter intact), the original drawing can still be seen, and so as the original can thus be surmised, it is still possible to comment relevantly about this. Again, the most notable shortcoming is that of the front left leg being part of the body, although Escher here defines the leg more clearly, the adjoining body is thus disjointed in relation. Furthermore, aspects of the lizard are shown in both plan and side views, probably unavoidably so. A pleasing aspect as regards aesthetics to this is that the lizard’s mouth gapes in a most realistic manner, whereby with such attention to detail this thus enhances the tessellation, as on this occasion a three-dimensional effect is evident. Indeed, of this ‘series of two’, the lizard variation with the mouth open appears so much the better than in its closed state. As such, despite the odd drawback, the motif remains of a most pleasing quality.

Coloration and Rendition
As this is in two states, this is discussed as according to year:
November 1937:
Flat, minimum, two-colours: orange and white (unstated). No rendition.
April 1963:
Three-dimensional, minimum, two colours: brown and orange, with minor shading to suggest contours.
Created c. 2005. Updated 22 November 2006 (minor reworking)

DRAWING 16 [GREYHOUND]
Ukkel, beginning 1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see no. 2’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to drawing 16.
As such, the resemblance to a dog is unambiguous, with no obvious shortcomings. As is self evident, a very high-quality example, with the proportions of the animal anatomically correct. This example is interesting in that Escher seems to have made a conscious decision to keep the tessellation relatively simple in style. No attempt is made at three-dimensions by showing the legs on the other side of the body, an aspect that causes practical difficulties in retaining anatomical correctness (as exemplified by drawing 6). The reasons for this are discussed more fully in Essay 3, Motif Choice, Dogs.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, blue and white (unstated). As such, the blue colouring can be considered as too strong, as the interior details are not readily noticeable when compared with the other two colours. No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 22 November 2006 (minor reworking of essay details)

DRAWING 17 [EAGLE]
Ukkel, beginning 1938
Pencil and watercolour

In contrast to most of the motifs of his oeuvre, whereby the motif is generic i.e. a arbitrary bird, fish, lizard etc, Escher here successfully composes a specific type, namely of an eagle, with the main distinguishing features of this bird being the hooked beak and talons being noticeable. Such exactness pertaining to a real-life bird is the sign of an inherently quality tessellation, as such unambiguous aspects can be most difficult to incorporate into a tessellation.

Details of the genesis of the eagle can be found in Doris Schattschneider's article ‘The Polya-Escher connection’ in Mathematics Magazine 60 (1987): 293-298. The genesis of this is interesting; Schattschneider gives its source from the Pólya article; diagram D1gg, shown on page 23, where Escher fuses two of the tiles. Schattschneider also asserts, page 289, that the idea may have arisen because of an earlier, non-tessellating print, of 1922 of an eagle (cat. 92). However, due to the noticeable time span between these, a direct link seems unlikely.
This tessellation is interesting concerning the portrayal of the bird’s leg, where, as a rule, the legs are not shown (for reasons why, see Essay 3, Motif Choice, Birds). In contrast, the legs here are conspicuous, being an essential part of the tessellation as they define important aspects such as talons and wing on the other side of the line, albeit if Escher had so desired, the legs could have been omitted, with the rest of the bird being duly adapted.
Somewhat curiously, this drawing possesses not one but two overlaying grids, of rectangles and parallelograms. As such, the parallelograms do indeed more obviously pertain to the general outline of the eagle, whilst the rectangles appear somewhat arbitrarily.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: red, blue and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 30 April 2010 (inclusion of the ‘genesis aspect’, which has recently come to my attention)
 

 

DRAWING 18 [TWO BIRDS]
Ukkel, February 1938
India ink, pencil and watercolour
Discussed in:
Symmetry Aspects, page 60.
Related graphic work:
Day and Night, February 1938 (cat. 303).

Escher notes on the drawing ‘see nos. 22, 29, 30’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motifs, which are different to Drawing 18.
Although the motifs here appear to be of identical birds at first sight, it can be seen that although they are indeed alike in a general sense, there are in fact subtle differences. Upon closer inspection, although the head, body and wings are indeed identical, the tail region, albeit not consisting of a tail per se, differs, with the left flying bird possessing an ‘down’ tail, whilst the right one has a ‘up’ tail, thus resulting in two distinct birds. As is self evident, the motifs here are of a most pleasing quality, upon making due allowance for the lack of a given tail. Furthermore, the drawing is aesthetic, as both motifs, due to their symmetry, remain upright. (Of which this matter has been discussed more fully in Essay 4,
Aesthetic and Non-Aesthetic Tessellation). Escher appears to have made a concerted effort of composing aesthetic bird motifs, as this is probably the first in a ‘mini-series’ of two, as immediately following this, Drawing 19 (of the same month) is another of a very similar nature.
In contrast to Escher's previous tessellations, this here is apparently rendered in a more considered manner, with finer detail, most noticeably with relatively extensive feather markings, and emphasised by their inking-in, both of these aspects undertaken for the first time. Furthermore, each bird’s exterior is delineated by a thicker black line, albeit I am not convinced that this was contemporary with the drawing, as the very next drawing, although coloured in a similar manner, is shown non-delineated. As such a change in style would then logically also be applied to the next drawing, this thus gives grounds for uncertainty in this matter. However, a counter argument can be proposed that he thus pondered as to which was ‘better’ between the two, thus the explanation for drawing 19 being left non-delineated. However, subsequent drawings, 20 and 22, of a few months later do indeed possess similar delineations, thus possibly indicating that this was indeed contemporary. Interestingly, the near contemporary drawing 21 is of a ‘split’ nature, with the lower quarter being left non-delineated, again, why, if not a subsequent addition?
Escher used this drawing for the print
Day and Night, arguably amongst his finest in terms of ‘economy of composition’. Amazingly, if not astonishingly, this was contemporary with the drawings completion – as such, a period of reflection may have been assumed considering its complexity of ideas, involving the idea itself, deformations (of the birds to fields) and also figure and ground, but all this seems to have been readily assimilated and accomplished by himself.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: blue and white (unstated).
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005
 
 

DRAWING 19 [BIRD]
Ukkel, February 1938
Pencil and watercolour

This is probably the second of the previously discussed ‘series of two’, albeit even if not, it remains a fine example in its own right. As such, it is of similar high quality, of the same ideal aesthetic orientation despite contrasting symmetry systems. Interestingly, the rare feature of the bird’s leg being shown is noticeable, albeit this is not significant per se.
Curiously, as with Drawing 17, this also has two distinct sets of grid lines overlaying it, of rhombuses and rectangles, the latter of which Escher appears to have attempted to remove by rubbing out. Strangely, none of these grid lines are near to the vertices as may have been supposed.
Despite this drawing being of the aesthetic type (and therefore highly suitable for a ‘compositional print’), Escher did not use this for a further work as may have been expected. Possibly, as this is very similar in nature to the preceding drawing, he thought that by doing so he would be essentially repeating himself, and therefore did not pursue this.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: blue and white (unstated).
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 20 [FISH]
Ukkel, 1938
India ink, pencil, watercolour and gold paint
Preparatory drawing:
Visions of Symmetry, page 45.
Discussed in:
Symmetry Aspects, page 74 and Art and Science (re: coloration), pages 117-120.
Related work: Woodcut in four colours on silk, c.1942. Surface design for carved beechwood sphere with twelve identical fish, 1940.

A fish motif of good quality, of which a pleasing feature is that the fish possesses a three-dimensional appearance due to the tail being twisted, this being in contrast to all motifs previously essentially shown in profile. Consequently, examples of this type are thus favoured over the profile type due to their inherent realism, if the intrinsic quality of the fish is the same.
Pleasingly, the genesis of this is known, shown on page 45, it arising because of Escher's experimenting with a given tiling, of which the proto-motif can be seen to be most rudimentary indeed, with only the most minimalist resemblance to a fish motif. Consequently, considerable credit must be given to Escher for composing such a high quality motif from so unlikely a beginning.
In contrast to Escher's previous tessellations, this is shown with a variation, or in his own words an ‘improved motif’ (presumably as the top fin is more streamlined), with a separate fish aside from the main drawing, albeit this was not drawn out as a separate tessellation, but was used on the beechwood sphere (above). As such, the differences are slight, of no real consequence.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, non-minimum, four colours: red, blue, white (unstated) and gold paint, the first such usage. The tessellation has optional colouring possibilities, as it is of the same type as with No.3. Although this could have been coloured with three colours, this being the minimum (as noted by himself on the drawing), on this occasion he used four colours, this being compatible with the symmetry. A more in depth study of the implications involving examples of this type is discussed in 2.7 Coloration and Rendition.
G.C. Shephard (above) discussed the mathematics of the coloration, giving examples with 2, 4, 5, 6 and 13 colours, albeit these are shown in an abstract manner, with numerals representing numbers, of which the various colourings are not at all obvious, necessitating ones own application.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 21 [IMP]
Ukkel, 1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour
Related graphic work:
Cycle, May 1938 (cat. 305).

As such, a human figure of quite good quality, albeit the head is slightly disproportionate to the body. However, this is a minor quibble, as the composing of human figures of absolute perfection is an exacting task. Schattschneider (Visions of Symmetry, page 290), asserts that this is possibly derived from the Pólya article, diagram C3 shown on page 23, from which the resemblance to the drawing, or more exactly of the legs only, is thus clear. Even though some sort of figure in the form of legs is thus evident, by no stretch of the imagination is an upper body even remotely discernable from the tessellation. Therefore, if this was indeed the source, to thus compose a complete figure from this most unlikely beginning, which is in general correct proportion, is no mean feat.
This drawing also has the somewhat curious feature of a ‘partial delineation’ of the outline. As can be seen, the upper three-quarters are heavily delineated, whilst the lower quarter has no such addition. As such, there is no real reason for such a dichotomy on a finished drawing, from which the likelihood of this being a later addition thus arises. However, as there are two drawings (18 and 20) preceding this with a delineating line, this is not necessarily so, although I am not convinced these are (18 and 20) contemporary delineations. Another possibility is that Escher set out to compare non and delineating outlines in a ‘side by side’ manner, albeit if so, why such an uneven distribution? Whatever the reason, a side aspect to this is that it can indeed be used for comparison purposes, even though not ideal (due to the uneven distribution). Without any doubt whatsoever, the delineation greatly assists in the defining of the motif, whereas the non-delineated area is decidedly less clear. Such delineation is even more of a necessity when different shades of the same colour are used (as here), from which it can thus readily be imagined that if the motif consists of different colours this is again even more so of a requirement.
Another curiosity is that Escher added a tinted border to the drawing. Again, this was probably an experiment of seeing the effect.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat (in intent), minimum, three colours: red, yellow and possibly dark blue, albeit the latter is not readily identifiable. This is interesting in that for the first time, possibly of necessity due to the clothing, Escher uses different shades of the same colour, albeit the motifs intrinsically remain of one colour. Interestingly, despite the obvious requirement of flesh colour for the face, arms and hands, he chose not to use this, the figures retaining their base colours, thus resulting in a somewhat unnatural appearance. Possibly, this was forced upon him by the ‘rule’ that neighbouring regions must be of a contrasting colour in order to be clearly identifiable. Clearly, as on this occasion the rule would have been broken if this was thus employed, hence his possible reluctance to do so. However, as this is of a relatively minor break of the rule, it is perhaps surprising that Escher did not at least consider this possibility.
Created c. 2005. Updated 22 November 2006 (minor reworking)
 
 

DRAWING 22 [BIRD AND FISH]
Ukkel, June 1938
India ink, coloured pencil and watercolour
Related graphic work:
Sky and Water I, June 1938 (cat. 306).

Escher notes (retrospectively) on the drawing ‘see nos. 18, 19, 30’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to Drawing 22.

Although this is numbered 22, Schattschneider has noticed that an impression on the paper that places this after drawing 23.
Such matters aside, this is a major breakthrough, as here for the first time Escher is able to compose a tessellation that has two intrinsically different distinct motifs, namely of a bird and fish. Although such an idea has a precedent of sorts, with Drawing 18, the motifs there are of the same creature (a bird), with slightly different tails, thus resulting in two distinct birds almost incidentally. In contrast, Drawing 22 is more explicit in portraying the distinctness.
The motifs are of a high quality nature, with no shortcomings of any real note. Furthermore, both motifs are of the same scale and appear in an aesthetic orientation, of which, as previously discussed, is thus ideal.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two-colours: red and white (unstated). Minor rendition, of a black outline
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005. Minor revision 3 August 2012

DRAWING 23 [BIRD]
Ukkel, June 1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour
Related work: Intarsia panel for clock for the conference room of the mayor and alderman in the raadzaal (council hall), Leiden Stadhuis (
Leiden Town Hall), 1940.

Escher notes on the drawing ‘system IXD see 15’, this presumably referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to Drawing 23.
The bird motif is of a good quality, with all of the elements in proportion. Of interest here is that the motif has an alternative possible placing, as the vertex of tile at the head region resembles the birds beak, from which this thus gives an additional possibility, either in combination with Escher's birds or separately.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: red and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 24 [FISH/BIRD]
Ukkel, November 1938
Pencil, ink and watercolour
Related graphic work:
Sky and Water II, December 1938 (cat. 308).

Escher retrospectively notes on the drawing ‘2 motifs system VC variant 2. See 26’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motif, which is different to Drawing 24.
This drawing was possibly composed for a specific purpose, namely that as a second version on the theme of sky and water, as exemplified by the earlier print
Sky and Water I, as the same two motifs appear. Certainly, the symmetry is noticeably different from its possible immediate predecessor, whereby here the birds and fish both appear in two distinct orientations, and furthermore are both of aesthetic orientations, thereby suggesting a predetermined specific type, composed for a print in mind. However, it may of course be purely coincidental, it having arisen because of Escher's natural course of study.
As regards the quality of the motifs, both are of a somewhat poor standard (also in comparison with its possible predecessor, Drawing 22), with notable shortcomings, with the birds under body possessing a strange protuberance (which in the print subsequently becomes the birds feet), whilst the fish’s mouth is somewhat contrived.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two-colours: blue and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 25 [LIZARD]
Ukkel, January 1939
India ink, pencil and watercolour
Discussed in:
Symmetry Aspects, page 76.
Related graphic work:
Development II, February 1939 (cat. 310 and 310A). Metamorphosis II and III, 1939-1940 and 1967-1968 (cat. 320 and 446). Reptiles, 1943 (cat. 327).

Without doubt, these lizards are of a very high quality, with no obvious anatomical shortcomings. Perhaps an indication of how highly Escher regarded this was that he chose this as the first to appear in an article (De delver), and furthermore he used it no less than three times for his prints.
Schattschneider asserts (
Visions of Symmetry, page 291) that the pencilled lines showing the underlying (hexagonal) grid was added subsequently, likely for the planning of Development II or Metamorphosis II.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: crimson, green and white (unstated). Minor rendition, interior and outline inked.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 26 [BIRD/BUG]
Ukkel, November 1938
Pencil and watercolour

Escher notes on the drawing ‘2 motifs system VC variant 2. See no. 24’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the motifs, which are different to Drawing 26.
Curiously, there is a chronological inconsistency with this drawing, as despite being numbered after Drawing 25 the stated date precedes that drawing (by a matter of two months).
As such, the quality of the motifs is somewhat difficult to judge, as strangely Escher did not add any interior detail to the swift-like bird motif (if he so intended this interpretation), leaving this wholly vacant. In contrast, the bug is notably more detailed, at least in comparison. An obvious question to ask is to why Escher left the drawing in this essentially unfinished state.
Although Schattschneider has named this as a bug, I would prefer the description as more of that as an insect. Furthermore, the combination and concept of a swift pursuing an insect would make for a most logical print. However, Escher did not pursue this as a possible idea, or with any other, as regards a print.
Another aspect to this drawing is that it revisits the more complicated symmetry of drawing 24, this again suggesting a degree of pre-planning as to choice of ‘aesthetic’ symmetry as regards motifs.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: green and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 27 [INSECT/FISH]
Ukkel, March 1939
Pencil and watercolour
Related graphic work:
Metamorphosis II and III, 1939-1940 and 1967-1968 (cat. 320 and 446).

This was possibly composed for a specific purpose, namely that of a metamorphosis idea that Escher was undertaking of the same period. Therefore, with two motifs, both of an aesthetic appearance, these background factors thus gives credence to this possibility.
Both motifs are of a good quality, with no obvious shortcomings.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours, crimson and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 28 [THREE BIRDS]
Ukkel, November 1938
Pencil and watercolour
Related graphic work:
Metamorphosis II and III, 1939-1940 and 1967-1968 (cat. 320 and 446).

Again, another chronological discrepancy as despite being numbered after drawing 27, the stated date precedes that drawing (by a matter of four months).
Unambiguously, this was indeed composed for a specific purpose of the
Metamorphosis II print, in which a link between the motifs was necessary. As such, due to the self-imposed restrictions in this matter (of symmetry and motifs), the composing of high quality motifs for specific purposes can be a most exacting task. However, here Escher composes motifs that bear comparison with any of the more normally produced ones.
Also of interest here is that this is the first tessellation consisting of three distinct motifs, albeit of the same creature.
An idea of how Escher created this can be seen on page 137, whereby a small sketch shows a broadly geometric source, of cruciform-like appearance, suitable for bird-like outlines, from which he than added curved lines as appropriate for the symmetry.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, three colours: pale crimson, green and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 29 [BIRD/FISH]
Ukkel, December 1939
Pencil and watercolour
Related graphic work:
Metamorphosis II and III, 1939-1940 and 1967-1968 (cat. 320 and 446).

Escher retrospectively notes on the drawing ‘2 motif transitional system IA-IA. See nos. 18, 22, 30’, this referring to the same symmetry system and not the combination of motifs per se, which is different to Drawing 29.
As with Drawing 28, this was included in the
Metamorphosis II print, and likewise for reasons as stated above; this was almost certainly created for that purpose in mind.
Both motifs are of a high quality, with no obvious shortcomings. Of interest here is that of the amount of care Escher took in ensuring the accuracy of the interior details, as various dots can be seen, presumably these acting as registration points for the curved lines.

Coloration and Rendition
Flat, minimum, two colours: pale crimson and white (unstated). No rendition.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14 November 2005

DRAWING 30 [FISH/BOAT]
Ukkel, March 1940
Coloured pencil

Escher notes on the drawing ‘2 motifs transitional system IA-IA see nos. 18, 22, 29, 72’, referring to the same symmetry system and not the combination of motifs, which is different to Drawing 30.
Escher here composes a two motif tessellation of a fish and a boat, his first containing an inanimate object. Oddly, the rendition of the latter is noticeably lacking, with no real detail. As such, these two motifs are a natural combination, having elements of the sea in common, and, furthermore, both are shown in an aesthetic orientation, and so therefore in theory ideal for the composition of a print. However, despite such a possibility, Escher did not in this case proceed with a print. Possibly, he reflected on this and found two reasons as to why he could not effectively continue:

• The fish and boat are of noticeably different scales, ridiculously so, with the fish being the same approximate size as of the boat. However, this factor did not deter him with a subsequent graphic work, using Drawing 72, of the same motifs, for a greetings card.

• The fish appears in a somewhat unusual slanting orientation; for the purposes of a print, a horizontal appearance would be more aesthetically favoured.

This is also of interest in that Schattschneider effectively states that Escher here changes his media, the first use of solely coloured pencil. However, upon examining the drawing, an underlying watercolour seems likely, with the coloured pencil applied over this.

Coloration and Rendition
Three-dimensional, minimum, two colours: light brown (burnt sienna?) and white (unstated). Rendered in relative detail, with shading suggesting a degree of three-dimensions on both motifs.
Created c. 2005. Updated 14, 28 November 2005
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