Fantastic Finds: An Exclusive Book About M.C. Escher’s Obsession With Tessellation

By Thomas | 30th November

    At Catawiki we are always seeking to bring the most special items to our auctions. Starting this Friday (30th November) is our specially dedicated Stichting de Roos Auction, in which you can find one of the most sought-after works of Dutch graphic designer M.C. Escher; ‘Regelmatige Vlakverdeling’. Our Book Expert Mark Harrison explains what makes this book so unique. 

    M.C. Escher continues to be one of Europe’s most popular graphic artists. His woodcuts, in which he gradually transforms one figure into another by constantly repeating the same figure with infinitesimally small changes, are universally known. Geometric figures become birds, birds become fish, bees become honeycombs and a black figure on white becomes white on black by this same principle. Perhaps his most sought-after work is Regelmatige Vlakverdeling [in English, this translates as “Regular Division of the Plane”], published by Stichting De Roos in 1958. We are very pleased to be including a copy of this work in our forthcoming Catawiki Books (Stichting De Roos) Auction which goes live on November 30th (and ends on December 9th at 7 pm CET).

    The sentence reproduced on this page, (at the beginning of the publication) translates to ‘There is an element of the minstrel in every graphic artist.’ This theme continues on the next page of the book: ‘in each print that he makes from one particular woodblock, copperplate or lithographic stone, he always sings and repeats the same song’. This second part of the sentence touches on a very striking aspect in Escher's work: repetition. It is not surprising that he chose this sentence for the opening of his book: it is a reflection of this technique.

    This work is in three main parts. There is the text portion, which includes Escher's personal outpourings about his 'addiction' to the regular division and contains an explanation of the depicted woodcuts (45 pages). Then there are the black and white illustrations printed from the blocks (a series of six prints, 33 x 24 cm.) Finally, the same six prints are produced in Red (almost a burnt Ochre).

    The philosophy of the tiles

    This distinctive style and philosophy are explained further on the website of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands). “As he wanted to be an architect, M.C. Escher started his training at the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. However, one of his teachers, the graphic artist Jessurun de Mesquita, discovered his talent for drawing and encouraged him to change to the department of graphic art. One can still see his interest in architecture in his oeuvre, not only when he is working with planes, but also in his experiments with mathematical figures and perspective. It enables him to combine different styles in one work, styles that would seem incompatible, but that are made into a logical whole by his expert and imaginative constructions.”

    The tiles are everything for Escher. He explains his philosophy a little more in R. Roelofs 'Not the Tiles, but the Joints: A Little Bridge Between M.C. Escher and Leonardo da Vinci'. In: 'M.C. Escher's Legacy', (2003)

    Here he says that the tiles should fit tightly together on all sides so that there is no space between them. In other words, the joint, the grout, the layer of mortar used by bricklayers to cement each stone to an adjacent stone, separates them in practice, but can theoretically be reduced to nothing. Mathematicians would call these joints “edges of the tiling; edges are never considered to have any width."

    About publishing house 'Stichting de Roos'

    The ‘Stichting De Roos’ publishing house was established in June 1945 – one month after the liberation of the Netherlands. During the Second World War, quite a large number of clandestine fine editions had been published, and it was this love of the book that the founders wanted to keep alive. In their first prospectus, they explained their mission ‘to make books and printed matter solely for the pure and therefore altruistic love of typography and art, in all conceivable forms in which they may be combined’.  The Stichting (or foundation) has a maximum of 175 members, and for many years has had a waiting list for prospective members. Every year three or four works are published, for members only. The best known and most sought-after publication from ‘Stichting De Roos’ is Regelmatige Vlakverdeling. The copy offered here is # 81 of a Limited Edition of 175 examples.

    Museum Meermanno

    The Museum Meermanno has owned the archive of ‘Stichting De Roos’ since 2003. This rich archive includes, among other things, membership records, minutes, production material, and the ‘project files’ of the publications that were produced in editions of 175 copies. The project file of Regelmatige Vlakverdeling reveals that Escher had initially been asked to illustrate a book by Belcampo. However, Escher preferred a text of his own, about his major specialism. ‘It might become’, he wrote in 1956 to Karel Asselbergs, a member of the board, ‘a most curious publication; or something, anyway, (said in all modesty) that no other graphic artist on the entire globe would be able to furnish you with. It doesn’t sound very modest, but what can I do about it? That’s just the way it is.’

    The Museum Meermanno not only owns the first copy (No. 1) of this sought-after book but also the proof sheets and the wood blocks Escher made for the book.

    The photographs of this fabulous work are all taken from the copy offered in the Stichting de Roos Auction at Catawiki  - M.C. Escher, Regelmatige Vlakverdeling, 1958, estimated at €8.000-10.000


    Stichting De Roos

    Koninklijke Bibliotheek

    Meermanno Museum


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