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Daily Art Moment: M.C. Escher

As we move into spring from winter, I am reminded of M.C. Escher’s woodcut Day & Night, which captures another transition. In this engaging yet perplexing image, white and black birds appear above the checkered fields below, marking the switch from the nocturnal to the diurnal. Escher plays with negative and positive space, light and dark, and foreground and background, causing the viewer to constantly readjust their understanding of the scene. What do you see first?

Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings

A detail of the upper center of the print focusing on the tessellated confluence of black birds flying leftward with a view of light fields below and white birds flying to the right with a dark background. Moving from top to bottom, the birds devolve into lines and shapes.

M. C. Escher (Dutch, 1898–1972), Day & Night, 1938. Woodcut in black and grey, printed from two blocks. Gift of Mr. George O’Leary, 2019.89.16