day and night, m.c. escher

With Day and Night, Escher shares his unique artistic vision of the Dutch polder landscape. It is one of his first woodcuts based on plane filling, a compositional technique in which figures repeat themselves and transform into new shapes. Ploughed fields become birds; day becomes night.

M.C. Escher’s “Dag en Nacht” (1938) © the M.C. Escher Company B.V. All rights reserved.

M.C. Escher’s “Day and Night” (1938) © The M.C. Escher Company, B.V. All rights reserved.​

In Day and Night we see a landscape that slowly takes on the appearance of black and white birds. On the left the representation is depicted in daylight, on the right the same scene is seen in the dark. Escher said of this: ‘It was born logically from the associations light = day and dark = night.’ The suggestion of a transition between day and night is reinforced by subtle gradations in grey tones, an effect that Escher created by using two blocks during printing.

Escher was fascinated by divisions of the plane because it is impossible to see it as a whole. His circle of acquaintances initially only thought the print was ‘peculiar’. Yet it became one of Escher’s best-selling works: in total he printed more than 650 of them.