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Birds welcoming Spring

The weather in the Netherlands is not really cooperating, but it is true: today marks the beginning of spring!

A common feature in Escher’s work is birds. He created hundreds of them, in his woodcuts, wood engravings and occasionally in a lithograph. Sometimes by themselves, but usually in a group. Most often he used them in his tessellations, which are heavily populated by birds.

These tessellations with birds appear mostly in his sketchbooks with regular division drawings, but Escher used them in his prints too. Like in this wood engraving from April 1949. First he created a repeating pattern of six interlocking birds, three white ones and three black ones. In a bigger tessellation he repeated this pattern six times, creating a tessellation of 36 birds. Then he stopped. In his sketchbooks he would fill the page with a never-ending pattern, but for this wood engraving, he deemed a sixfold repetition sufficient. This creates a wonderful residual shape that invites viewers to add countless birds in their own minds. So many that spring will surely come now!

M.C. Escher, Plane-filling Motif with Birds, wood engraving, April 1949
M.C. Escher, Regular Division of the Plane with Birds, wood engraving, April 1949 (clarification of the pattern)

More Escher today