Teachers Lesson Plans

M.C. Escher

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Day and Night (1938) and Circle Limit IV (Heaven and Hell, 1960)

It was in 1922, while admiring the Moorish mosaics that adorn the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Mosque at Cordova, that Escher was first struck by the possibility of filling a flat surface with identical forms. The challenge of replacing geometric shapes by recognizable motifs soon became a passion. In October 1937, after several intuitive attempts, Escher began to take a more abstract and theoretical approach. In the winter of 1940-41, he recorded his research in a notebook. Like his impossible worlds, the compositions he developed from these studies have made him famous.

A comparison of the two prints reveals certain characteristics of the artist's work. For example, both are based on dyads (pairs of opposites): day/night and heaven/hell. Escher also battled with physical constraints in his art, not liking to see his tessellations "cut" by the edge of the paper, as at the upper edge of Day and Night. This led him to make suites of mosaic-style prints where the boundary is not arbitrary, but rather created by progressively reducing the size of the figures towards the infinitely small.