ANIMAL ART OF THE DAY for M.C. Escher’s Birthday: Escher’s Reptiles

Happy birthday to iconic Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher, born 125 years ago today (Maurits Cornelis Escher, 17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972).

Animal forms inspired many of his works, especially fish, birds, and other reptiles. Here’s a favorite example of the latter, Reptiles from 1943:

M. C. Escher, Reptiles, 1943, Lithograph
[All M.C. Escher Works © The M.C. Escher Company – Baarn – Holland; educational use]

Here’s what Escher had to say about this piece:

On the page of an opened sketchbook a mosaic of reptiles can be seen, drawn in three colours. Now let them prove themselves to be living creatures. One of them extends his paw out over the edge of the sketchbook, frees himself fully and starts on his path of life. First he climbs onto a book, walks further up across a smooth triangle and finally reaches the summit on the horizontal plane of a dodecahedron. He has a breather, tired but satisfied, and he moves down again. Back to the surface, the ‘flat lands’, in which he resumes his position as a symmetrical figure. I was later told that this story perfectly sums up the theory of reincarnation.

Cambridge lecture, 9 August 1960

The mosaic in the sketchbook is one of Escher’s own earlier reptile creations, from his Regular Division of the Plane series of tessellation patterns:

M. C. Escher, Regular Division of the Plane #25, India ink, pencil and watercolor, January 1939
[All M.C. Escher Works © The M.C. Escher Company – Baarn – Holland; educational use]

Bonus fun fact: a colorized reproduction of Reptiles was used as the cover for Mott the Hoople’s 1969 eponymous debut album!

Mott the Hoople, Mott the Hoople (1969)

For more examples of Escher’s reptile tessellations, see the following articles from Escher In Het Paleis:
“Repeating Reptiles”
“Reptiles in Wartime”
“Development II”
“Escher Sphere with Reptiles”

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