Sales of jigsaw puzzles have boomed in the pandemic, according to a recent report in the Guardian. In 2020, a staggering £100m was spent on them in the UK alone – that’s 38 per cent more than in the previous year. There are thousands of arty puzzles out there, but some are more bamboozling than others – and will have you scrutinising every brushstroke with more concentration than even the most discerning connoisseur. A jigsaw of Malevich’s Black Square, anyone?
Straight in at the deep end: what could be more challenging in jigsaw format than Monet’s Impressionist rendering of green foliage, greenish-brown water, and a greenish-blue bridge – plus of course a few blurry specks of pink waterlilies?
The novelist Margaret Drabble wrote about her enthusiasm for the pastime in A Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws. For her, Bruegel and puzzles are a perfectly perplexing pairing. Of his Kinderspieler (Children’s Games, 1560), she writes: ‘It is full of anecdote and incident […] I got to know those children very well.’
In 1964, a 340-piece jigsaw reproducing Jackson Pollock’s Convergence was touted as ‘the world’s most difficult puzzle’. Now a 1,000-piece version of the same puzzle has been released. This will keep everyone from 8 to 80 busy for hours.
Satirical photomontage artist Cold War Steve has begun producing his own jigsaws. The densely populated Hellscape, set in Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, is made slightly easier by the recognisable faces that pop up (Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump) – although not so easy are the hordes of identical skeletons keeping the politicians company.
Michelangelo’s epic frescoes took four years to complete – good luck beating that time with this 5,000 piece reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Completing this will feel like a truly miraculous act of creation.
Stella’s famous aphorism ‘What you see is what you see’ takes on new meaning in this puzzle from MoMA. Based on his painting Firzubad from 1970, the jigsaw might have you going around in circles.
For a slightly more… surprising take on art history, look no further the Rijksmuseum’s De Duckwacht: a mash-up of Rembrandt and Donald Duck. Good luck trying to match the faces to the figures.