The artist’s mind-boggling works – full of stairways leading nowhere and water flowing uphill – defy logic. But did they also foresee the second world war? And why was he so riled by the Stones frontman?

You are walking up a staircase that winds up to the top of a tall square tower. It ascends one side, then the next, then the next – and then suddenly you are right back where you started. This is the kind of problem people who are trapped in the geometrically impossible, yet still strangely plausible, worlds of MC Escher have to deal with all the time. In his mind-boggling creations, dimensions collide and normality dissolves. Looking into his pictures is like standing on the very edge of a cliff – and being right down at the bottom at the same time.

The Dutchman’s illusions have been famous and beloved since the 1950s, when spaced-out fans first started claiming to see hemp plants hidden in his art. And now we have Kaleidocycles, a Taschen book about the artist featuring paper puzzle kits that allow you to actually build his paradoxical structures at home, unlikely as that may seem. The tome has just been reissued in time for Christmas and the 50th anniversary of his death next year. His work does seem perfect for the festive season, given it’s all fun and games. Or at least that’s how it seems, initially.

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