January 20, 2015

Escher's Mistake

        I’m not one of those people who believes that “perfection is boring.”  I admire and enjoy the perfection of Escher’s carving, just as I admire and enjoy other endeavors in which people strive to do the best possible job they can.  But all the same, sometimes it’s nice to see that everyone makes mistakes, and that mistakes don’t necessarily spoil everything.  While I was at the Escher exhibit in Manchester last month, peering closely at M.C. Escher’s amazing and pretty much perfect wood block prints, I was tickled to see that on one of his biggest, most famous pieces, the registration was slightly off.
        Registration is the lining up of the printing of separate blocks on a single piece, and whenever I’ve done reduction prints that need to be printed in multiple layers, registration has been my nemesis.  So I took heart to see that a) even someone whose work is as perfect as Escher’s doesn’t always get things lined up perfectly.  And b) it didn’t matter.  The piece is amazing.

[Pictures: detail of Metamorphosis II, woodcut from 20 blocks by M.C. Escher, 1940 (Image from mcescher.com);
further detail of the same.]


Pax said...

I'm confused. If the registration of the green layer is off, shouldn't it be off everywhere? Yet some places it seems to mesh in perfectly. So is this a registration error or a carving error? I totally agree: it doesn't matter a bit. I, too, really enjoy Escher's work.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Hmmm... You could be right that this is a carving error rather than a registration error. It looked to me like there was a bit of white showing along the bottoms of all those green shapes, but you're right that registration would make the green be off the same way everywhere. It's also true that if the green block were carved slightly inaccurately, we'd see gaps, too. Maybe I was just more prone to read it as a registration error because almost all the pieces I've done with multiple inkings have been reduction blocks, so i haven't had much experience with making separate blocks match up.