You could really learn something from Artle, the word for works of art

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ScreenshotArtle/National Art Gallery

Word based Wordle variants are incredibly fun. Each tweak of the format brings a new nuance to the game. But sometimes it’s worth broadening your horizons to guess things that are not the specific placement of letters on a grid. I did that today, and I fell in love Artle

The artwork guessing game comes from the National Gallery and has artists in their collection. Am I a lover of art history? Not really. But did I enjoy playing? A lot.

In this game you are presented with a work of art and your task is to guess who made it. Start typing an artist’s name and you’ll get suggestions so that for example you can select ‘Polidoro da Caravaggio’ instead of typing ‘carav…’ and then get stuck on how to spell the guy’s name . This feature also helps disambiguation between, say, Rembrandt Peale and Rembrandt van Rijn. (Another tip on how to play: load the page and wait a few minutes if a painting doesn’t appear. In our tests, the game was very slow to load at first, but it was easily playable once the first painting appeared.)

For each of the four guesses, you will be presented with a different work of art. So when I played today’s game, I saw a pen-and-ink drawing for the first time. I took a guess, which was wrong, and was then shown an engraving by the same artist. Missed again. Then there was another, more detailed engraving. I have no easy guesses, and now I’m trying to understand what? century this person may be from. No idea. Miss again. For my final guess, I get something else: a full-color painting whose style feels vaguely familiar, but I still can’t place it.

I take a random guess, concede defeat, and then the answer is revealed: it’s an artist I’ve never heard of.

In other versions of the game this would be frustrating. A word guessing game with an obscure word is no fun. But here’s the win-win: if you didn’t know the artist before, now it is

Or as an Artle player told the Washington Post“It gives you some self-awareness when you realize that all the artists you know right away are just like white 19th century artists, that maybe it’s time to expand some of your art appreciation.”

The game’s creators say they’ve chosen a mix of well-known and lesser-known artists to keep the game interesting and educational. And while the vast majority of the Gallery’s collections are the work of dead white men, the works selected for Artle are slightly more diverse: 17.8% of the artists in the game’s first 45 days were non-white, reports the Washington Post, compared to just 2.3% in the Gallery’s collections as a whole.

I won’t reveal the identity of today’s artist, but I will say that the end of the game satisfied my curiosity. Not only did I get to hear the name of the person, but the game linked me to a biography of the artist. (My best guess at a century was only 100 years away. Not bad?) It also had titles and links for more information about each of the four works on display. Now I know more about this artist, and I look forward to learning about another artist in 11 hours and 48 minutes.

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