Woodcut printed in black and red, a fine impression of this rare print, the colour fresh, X '39 - III '40, signed in pencil, printed from twenty blocks on five joined sheets of tissue thin Japan, with full margins, in excellent condition apart from very occasional foxing, a small paper loss at edge of sheet and other small areas of thinning at outer edges of sheet, occasional very slight creasing along edges of sheet.
In 1924 M.C. Escher and his wife moved to Rome to live there until 1935. From Rome Escher travelled extensively through Italy making many drawings and watercolours that were studies for his prints. Meanwhile, his work was already being exhibited in the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and the United States. In May 1931 Escher visited the village of Atrani near Ravello making several studies to be used in works of later date (B.148 and B.211).This village is also featuring in the present lot.
For the first time, in 'Metamorphosis I' (B.298) of 1937, Escher is experimenting in print with his ideas on a regular arrangement of space in which images change from one form into another, being the start of the characteristics for which he was to become so famous. Half a year later 'Day and Night' (B.303) was created. Undoubtedly one of Escher's most ambitious prints, the four meter long Metamorphosis II is four times as long as his first version Metamorphosis I from 1937 and elevates his use of geometric shapes to a new exciting level. The work demonstrates subtle transformations from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional, and visually plays with the gradual metamorphosis of shapes into objects. Furthermore, the beginning and the end of the print coincide to form a unity of the complete image.
From November 1939 to March 1940 Escher worked on 'Metamorphosis II', a major step in his development to become an internationally renowned artist. Only surpassed by 'Metamorphosis III' of 1967/68, for which it formed a basis, it may be considered as a highlight of his graphic work, in which he combined all his technical skills and artistic and geometrical ideas. The series with regular arrangements of space caused by several metamorphoses starts and ends with the same pattern, thus suggesting a cycle. The cycle, symbol of eternity, was a subject which had fascinated Escher until his death in 1972. Several of the figures from 'Metamorphosis' reappear in later prints by Escher, showing that he came back to the compositions in the present lot time and time again.
Escher dreamed of finding a publisher for his 'Metamorphosis' but this didn´t happen. The challenge of printing a woodcut of this size in various colours on three or five extremely fine sheets of paper was considerable and not only a quest in its imagery but also for its technical achievement and of great complexity, the twenty blocks being 5 mm. thick and cut at two sides, for cost saving and reduction of material. In 1940 he printed an edition of eight himself, which took him two weeks time. A second edition of 6 was printed in 1961 and in later years Escher would reprint only on request, which explains the rarity of this work.
F.H Bool , Leven en werk van M.C.Escher, Amsterdam, 1981, no 320 p.280-281 (ill.), p.338
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