Early in my college art education, an art history professor assigned us a museum trip. We were charged with visiting one of three specific paintings, and to spend 15 minutes with the work while writing down everything we could about it: composition, color, subject matter, and anything else that popped into our heads. She said that the 15 minute part was imperative, and to time ourselves.

Thus, I dutifully sat for 15 minutes in front of a painting at the Getty. It took less than a minute to note all the big stuff, but by the end of the session I had actually noticed the subtle shading of the sky, the patterning of leaves, the delicate blush on cheek – all things I never notice on a quick pass. It was such a richer experience. For so many of us, a trip to see art is a high speed smorgasbord, where we see the broad strokes and big ideas, but we miss the details because we’re speeding to the next one. So I have a new rule (since that assignment) when I’m in a museum… I might take a fast pass around a room, but I will choose one work and spend TIME with it.

So with that in mind, you’ll understand why I want to share a new iPad app with you… it’s called Art Scrambles, and it’s an app that brings you beautiful works of fine art as puzzles.


Above is Jan Van Eyck‘s Arnolfini Portrait as a puzzle. You get to choose the shape and size of the pieces you want to play with (I use bigger shapes when I want to relax, and the smallest when I want to be challenged). The app is infused with subtle orchestral sounds, a sweetly clean interface, and best of all, ART. There are well known works that you would expect to find, like the Mona Lisa, but there are also a lot of works that you might not have seen, and discovering them through the use of the puzzle format is such a delight.

For instance, on Arnolfini and his wife (above), it took playing the puzzle for me to notice the fruit on the window sill (below). And I have actually seen this painting in person! (psst… it’s 24” x 36” – so much smaller than you’d expect!)


I have studied Pieter Breugel the Elder in passing as all art history students do, but to work one of his paintings as a puzzle is to really understand just how much he was interested in hierarchy.


There are also artists represented in the app that I wasn’t aware of. One is Utagawa Hiroshige, and all of his works seem to be perfectly tuned for puzzle solving. I think I would have missed the subtle transitions of color if I hadn’t been searching for the right place to play the pieces! Look at the way the background fades from red to cream to green in Plums, below.


Anyway – if you have an iPad, go grab this app – it’s free and blissfully free of ads. It has add-on packs of more puzzles too – some a sampler of works from an era like the Renaissance, others just one artist. There are three packs just for Vermeer! Heaven!