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The Internet Is Restaging Famous Paintings While Museums Are Closed

The Getty, Metropolitan Museum, and Rijksmuseum have challenged their followers to creatively recreate famous works in their collections.

Joseph Ducreux, “Self-Portrait, Yawning” (1783), oil on canvas, 46 3/8 x 35 3/4 inch. Recreation by Paul Morris with British redcoat and twisty towel (courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum)

Don’t just look at an artwork, be the artwork and make it yourself! That’s the concept behind a new social media challenge that the Getty Museum in Los Angeles launched last week to help people overcome the ennui and distress of the COVID-19 quarantine.

“We challenge you to recreate a work of art with objects (and people) in your home,” the museum said in an announcement on Twitter on March 25. It followed with these instructions: “Choose your favorite artwork; Find three things lying around your house; Recreate the artwork with those items; And share with us.”

And sure enough, people have responded with wildly creative and amusing reenactments of famous works. For instance, one person recreated Hans Hoffmann “A Hare in the Forest” (1585) by replacing the hare with his dog. Another dog owner posed as the Madonna in the Master of St. Cecilia’s “Madonna and Child” (1290–1295), while her pet skillfully reenacted the pose and gaze of the infant Jesus. And a man in a red poncho convincingly reenacted a 16th-century painting of Saint Jerome, who lived for a time as a hermit, reading from his Bible.

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Hey @gettymuseum how’s this? 🙏📖🦁 #stayathomechallenge #museumathome . . The Getty is challenging folks to recreate works of art from the Getty collection at home. We found inspiration in an image of our guy St. Jerome. Jerome was a 4th-century scholar, theologian, and translator who used his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek to make the Vulgate, the definitive Latin translation of the Bible until the 16th century. Jerome is often portrayed alongside a lion, which, according to later tradition, was his best friend/companion during his time living in isolation as a hermit. . . [Detail of St. Jerome reading. From a ca. 1510 prayer book in the Getty collection. Ms. Ludwig IX 18 (83.ML.114) fol. 223v]

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Even more impressive are the recreations made with found objects. One participant used two bottles of wine and a pepper mill to recreate remains of a Roman building facade in Joseph Mallord William Turner’s 1839 “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino.” Another recreated Edvard Much’s “The Scream” (1893) with Clorox, shoes, clothes, gloves, and other items. And a third presented a minimalist, modern-day interpretation of a 1769 “Still Life with Fish, Vegetables, Gougères, Pots, and Cruets on a Table” using canned tuna, olive oil, and cheese from the supermarket.

Male Harp Player of the Early Spedos Type, 2700–2300 B.C., Cycladic. Marble, 14 ⅛ x 11 1/16 inch. Recreation by Irena Ochódzka with canister vacuum (courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum)

According to the Getty’s blog, the challenge was inspired by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the “brilliant Instagram account” Between Art and Quarantine, but adapted with downloadable artworks from Getty’s online collection.

The Getty’s challenge is also similar to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s #MetTwinning challenge, launched months before the epidemic. Met fans continue to use the hashtag to post pictures of themselves as characters in masterpieces. Others have been sharing similar images under the hashtag #museumathome.

But some find these challenges offensive, especially when reinterpreting religious iconography. One such person tweeted: “@GettyMuseum, I am a supporter of yours and of all arts, but I think this comparison while seeming ironic to many, could be offensive and hurtful to the many people in Latin Catholic countries fighting the epidemic in desperation. No need to explain why. Thanks from Italy.”

“Really? Who thought this was a good idea? No respect,” another tweeted, using the hashtag #evilliberalism.

These arguments were rebutted by proponents of the challenge, who welcomed this distraction from the pandemic. “It’s hilarious and a nice diversion,” one of them tweeted. “Grow a sense of humor, it feels better than indignation.”

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