In 1957, the De Roos Foundation commissioned Escher to write an essay on his tessellation work. In 1958, the essay was published as a book titled Regelmatige Vlakverdeling (The Regular Division of the Plane.) The book contained six black and white woodcuts bound within its pages and examples of the same woodcuts printed in red ink that were included in a separate folder in the back cover. The black and white images were deliberately printed on a gray-bordered paper so that the viewer questions whether the images are black on white or white on black. According to Escher, a white margin on the paper would disturb the balance between the contrast of black and white. Section 1 of the first print begins with a grey tone for this very reason.

    Escher’s treatise begins with a brief descriptions of printmaking. He writes:

       How different this is from the principle of uniqueness inherent in painting! We can well understand that a painter often finds it difficult to part with his spiritual creation, his unique work of art. The best he can hope is that it will be lovingly cared for by its foster parents.

     The graphic artist, however, is like a blackbird singing at the top of a tree. He repeats his song over and over again, and it is complete in each print that he makes. The more that are required, the better he is pleased. He wishes that the wind would scatter his leaves over the earth, the farther the better; not like the dry leaves of autumn, but rather like seeds ready to germinate and light as a feather.


    And later Escher divulges his thoughts on tessellations:

      Repetition and multiplication - two simple words. However the whole world of the senses would collapse into chaos without these two concepts. As soon as we lose sight of them, the world seems hopeless and merciless...The marvelous and mysterious natural laws surrounding us depend on them.

    Escher devoted the remainder of the book to describing tessellations and different ways in which shapes can rotate, reflect, or glide to fill a plane. The short book is full of many asides ranging from metamorphosis to dimensionality to observations that he is a lone artist in a unique genre. Escher revealed a little about his personality when he concluded with an acknowledgement to Bach; “his rationality, his mathematical order and the strictness of his rules probably have much to do with this, though not directly...I reach out to Bach’s music to revive and fire my desire for creativity.”

    There were 175 numbered and approximately 20 unnumbered copies published in 1958.  All of the original, unsigned, woodcuts pictured below are available for purchase.

Regular Division of the Plane, 1957

woodcuts printed in both black and red 9 1/2 x 7 1/8 in. (240 x 180 mm)

B. 416-421

REgular Division of the Plane

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