Let's Talk with Diane A.S. Stuckart

Playing for Keeps

August 4, 2022

About 20 years ago, my mother bought herself a two-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Its artwork was a copy of “Children’s Games”, a painting by the Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder. If you’re not familiar with that work, it features a detailed town square crammed with somewhere between 200 and 300 boys and girls (the number varies based upon whom you ask). And the majority of them are involved in a variety of 16th century children’s pastimes…up to eighty or more different games, by some counts.

Why did Bruegel choose such a subject? Some academics believe the painting was meant as an encyclopedia of popular kids’ pursuits during the Renaissance. Others opine that it is a clever commentary on a doleful human society. And still others view it as an elaborate “Where’s Waldo” type of experience for the casual viewer of the work.

Anyhow, Mom put together this beast of a puzzle mostly by herself. And when she was finished, rather than tossing the pieces back in the box again, she spent a couple of hundred dollars to have the puzzle professionally framed and then hung it on her wall.

I never thought to ask why that particular puzzle deserved a place of honor. I can only assume now that something about the artwork struck a chord with her. She’d reached the age where her offspring were middle-aged adults, and most of her grandkids were well into their teens and twenties. Maybe the painted children brought her enjoyment recalling her own family at a more innocent age.
Or maybe, scholar that she herself was, she was developing her own theories as to what Bruegel was trying to accomplish with this work.

When Mom passed away a few years back, the framed puzzle went to the estate sale. I really considered taking it home with me since none of the other siblings wanted it, but it was so big, and my wall space so limited, that I just couldn’t. Instead, I took a picture of it. I regret leaving it behind now, mostly because that darned painting has stuck with me over the years. In fact, the first Christmas during the pandemic, I found that same puzzle on eBay and sent it to my sister just to see if she remembered it.

I think one reason that the painting continues to resonate with me—besides the connection to my mother, of course—is that I view it as a life lesson. I know I’m guilty of taking on too much and being rushed for time, often for days—or weeks—on end. That painting reminds me that sometimes you have to break away from the housework, from the manuscript, from promoting your books, and spend a little time playing.

If you are intrigued by this particular work, here’s a link discussing Bruegel’s “Children’s Games” you might enjoy: https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/pieter-bruegels-childrens-games/

Let me know if any kind of artwork has always stuck with you.

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To learn more about author Diane A.S. Stuckart, who also writes as Anna Gerard, visit her WEBSITE.

Posted in Let's Talk, with Diane A.S. Stuckart • Tags: , , , , |  15 Comments


15 thoughts on “Playing for Keeps

  1. 2,000 pieces? Holy cow! Kathy is now hooked on jigsaw puzzles, and she’s working her way through the fourth one (I think). As far as the life’s lesson, you’re so right. It’s way too easy to get caught up in all the hubbub and neglect what’s important. Time for a bit more introspection!

  2. Hi Diane, I’m off to order a 2000-piece puzzle! I’ve been chilling out with puzzles since I was a kid. My favorite artwork is Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

  3. The only artworks that I’ve wanted are here in my house. I took some from my mother’s and my husband has a couple from his house as well. The rest are Haitian paintings we bought together in Labadee while on cruises.

  4. When I was around thirteen, I was into jigsaw puzzles. I pursued the interest again in my 20’s as a form of relaxation, but then things got so busy that there didn’t seem time for them. Now, I’m limited to 20 pieces with a three year old… but we’re moving up! My favorite piece of artwork is a rather dark paint on paper picture that is a woman standing in what could be a graveyard or a fountain area. The interpretation of the blues, greys, and smudges are in the eye of the beholder, but I find it peaceful, eerie, and pensive.

    1. Sounds like I’d like your favorite, too. When I was a teen, for some reason I was obsessed with El Greco’s “View of Toledo”. If I had to describe it, I’d use similar words to your description of your woman in the graveyard/fountain.

  5. Ever since I first saw it, Rembrandt’s “Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer” has tugged at me. From the time I was able to travel into the city on my own, I’d spend hours sitting on a bench in front of that painting. I even wrote my senior class paper on that painting. As for jigsaw puzzles, they’ve never held any appeal for me. I’m more into crossword puzzles and Wordle.

  6. This post brought back memories! I had a friend who was obsessed about Peter Bruegel. I’d never heard of him before she wrote a children’s fantasy story about him. She’s passed, but this post brought back fond memories of her.

  7. Playtime is so important. As an author, I’ve found that all work and no play is very hard on my muse. I love art in almost every shape and form. I say almost, because I don’t like scary art. I am a fan of bright colors, atmospheric paintings in all media, animal sculptures, and beautiful quilts. I have worked plenty of jigsaw puzzles in my life, but now I mostly do them with my grandkids. It amazes me that each child has a different puzzle-solving strategy. I always thought you did the border first and worked your way to the center. Not so for the little ones. They want to do an image at a time or gather up the pieces that have their favorite colors on them or they will select one piece and search all the other pieces for a piece that will work with that one. It’s all good. My life lesson with puzzles is that it isn’t the solution that’s important it’s everything on the way there.

    1. Good life lesson, Maggie. But we always did the border first, took, as obviously that’s an easy start (just pull all the flat-edged pieces and GO!). I miss doing puzzles but with limited table space and cats (and one dog!) that can leap any

      1. NO IDEA WHY THE FIRST MESSAGE TRUNCATED, BUT….Good life lesson, Maggie. But we always did the border first, too, as obviously that’s an easy start (just pull all the flat-edged pieces and GO!). I miss doing puzzles but with limited table space and cats (and one dog!) that can leap table-high any puzzle would be scattered on the ground long before it was finished. 🙂

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