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Cubic Space Division

Studying concepts like eternity and infinity in his work was definitely an obsession for Escher. He explored countless ways of suggesting boundlessness within the limited frame of his woodblock or his lithography stone. One of the ways he approached this was playing with depth and perspective. By varying the thickness of lines, sizes of shapes, and foreground versus background, he achieved this sense of infinite space in a number of works.


One of these was the lithograph Cubic Space Division. It presents three systems of parallel beams intersecting at right angles, dividing each other into pieces of equal length. Each is the edge of an open cube. At each of the intersecting points, a closed cube solidifies the connection. Thus space is filled with an infinite number of cubes of equal volume. In November 1952 Escher explored how best to develop this spatial concept in a series of drawings.
Study for Cubic Space Filling, November 1952
Study for Cubic Space Filling (detail), November 1952

Study for Cubic Space Filling, November 1952
Study for Cubic Space Filling (detail), November 1952

He finalised this in a lithograph in December of that year. In this, he could suggest even more depth because the lithographic stone makes it possible to soften lines. More and more as they are positioned deeper into the background. The depth effect is therefore stronger here than in a comparable perspective print like Depth. This is a woodcut and wood engraving in which every line is ‘liberated’ from the block and is therefore also visible. A lithograph has more possibilities for suggestion.

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