Popular Aberdeen Art Gallery artworks recreated by four friends during lockdown – with hilarious results

A group of talented, creative, and fun-loving four friends have recreated the scenes from some of Aberdeen Art Gallery’s most famous artworks during lockdown.

Vicki Frenz, Debbie Knorz, Ruth Maxwell, and Rhona MacRae are a group of four best friends, who live and work in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and call themselves All4Won, which is their lotto syndicate name.

At the start of lockdown they decided to keep in touch by meeting every Friday for a video call - not realising they would still be doing that more than 30 weeks later!

As three of the friends live alone - two shielding and one with a broken leg - they knew that lockdown would have its challenges, so decided to set creative ‘homework’ tasks, to keep mentally and physically motivated, and also to ensure a good laugh revealing the results to each other during their catch ups.

Seeing the photo recreations in the media of old masterpieces started by the Getty Museum, they decided to try some of their own - with hilarious results. Most of their photographic recreations were taken using mobile phones on 10 second timers - not an easy task when trying to strike a pose! They also had two strict rules - no Photoshopping, and only to use items found in their homes, nothing could be bought in especially. They chose various themes to focus their research and choices, including sculpture, nudes, men, and a favourite theme of Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Despite visiting Aberdeen Art Gallery on numerous occasions during their 40-year friendship, they were surprised by the breadth and diversity of the gallery’s collection.

They said: “We are delighted to have been part of Aberdeen Art Gallery’s Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 celebrations by sharing our images on the Art Gallery’s social media this week.

“We hope we’ve given the Gallery’s followers some fun and enjoyment with our recreations of artworks from the Gallery. Creating our artworks really helped us to get through lockdown - it set us a challenge each week, improved our knowledge of the Gallery collection and gave us hours of hilarity on a Friday evening when we shared them on our video chat!”

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “The amount of effort the group has put in recreated some of our most famous artworks is tremendous and they are to be commended on their work.

“The recreations are very funny and I’m sure people will enjoy them and may help to appreciate the original artworks in the gallery in a totally different light.

“The artworks we have on display at the Art Gallery are truly outstanding and of international importance and it’s been fantastic seeing the group’s very individual interpretations of them.”

Aberdeen Art Gallery was named as a winner earlier this week of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 in recognition of most ambitious redevelopment project in the museum’s 135-year history, completely re-imagining the gallery so its extraordinary treasures, and the stories they tell can be celebrated, shared and better understood.

Aberdeen City Council's Art Gallery, which is situated on the city’s Schoolhill street, is currently open from Wednesday to Monday, from 10am to 4pm, and people are advised to check the website at www.aagm.co.uk for the latest opening hours. People visiting the gallery can also now use the Smartify app to identify hundreds of works on display – just point and scan to discover more.

Anyone want to recreate their own interpretations of the art gallery’s masterpieces or just wants to view the thousands of artworks and images from the collections can do so at www.aagm.co.uk/collections.

The artworks which have been recreated by the four friends along with their descriptions and have been shared on the Art Gallery’s social media are:

1. “Closed Contact No. 4” by Jenny Saville, 1995-6 / “Zero Contact No. 2” by Vicki Frenz, 2020This was done for ‘nudes’ week – keen to avoid having to actually strip off, I thought of the Jenny Saville in the gallery; always a favourite. Recreated by pressing my bent leg (not the broken one) against a glass door and pulling and pressing the squidgy flesh. Only problem was the glass on the door was above waist height – not a dignified pose!

See Closed Contact No. 4 by Jenny Saville, 1995-6, in Gallery 4: Human Presence © Gagosian Gallery, London (2004)

2. “Going to School” by Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1882 / “Going to the Pub” by Ruth Jane-Maxwell, 2020The look on the little girl’s face, and therefore mine, sums up a fed up phase during lockdown. Tape and felting wool was used to create orange highlights in this image.

See Going to School in Gallery 10: French Connections

3. “Gallowgate Lard” by Ken Currie, 1995-6 / “Peterculter Facemask” by Debbie Knorz, 2020

I admired the scale and impact of the original painting which used to be one of the first works visible on entering the gallery. I used a face pack coated with extra flour for texture, soot for the shading, red watercolour paint on my lips and bottle tops for eyes.

See Gallowgate Lard in Gallery 18: People and Portraits © Ken Currie (2002)

4. “Jean Beag” by Rowena Comrie / “Rhona Boaked” by Rhona MacRae, 2020I decided on this image as I had items close to the correct colours in the wardrobe. I had a few attempts at this one as Tufty kept photobombing, in the end I decided to keep him in the photo.

5. “Margueritte McBey” by James McBey, 1950 / “ Mightgreet Frenz” by Vicki Frenz, 2020This idea started with the hat, which is a basket used for keeping wool in, and my favourite coral work top. The tree trunk was made from toilet rolls, which were a recurring theme at the start of lockdown. My daughter’s friend got the white blouse came from a charity shop- it was very useful and appeared in several of my photos.Explore James McBey’s life of art and adventure in Gallery 13.

6. “Aoyama” by Trevor Sutton / “Oochamama” by Ruth Maxwell, 2020I chose this abstract piece of work, as it reminded me of my bum in Lycra!  I ran a few hundred miles to keep sane during lockdown in the fair weather.

7. “The Artist’s Mother by Sylvia Gosse / “The Artist’s Lockdown” by Debbie Knorz, 2020This image encapsulated lockdown - lazing in bed, gazing into space with a fed up expression! A piece of flowery fabric stuck to a wardrobe, sun hat, old running t-shirt and existing bedding made for quite an easy composition.The Artist’s Mother by Sylvia Gosse (1881-1968) © The Artist. All Rights Reserved 2019 / Bridgeman Images

8. “Last Days of Summer” by Stephen Shankland, 2004 / “Last Days of Lockdown” by Rhona MacRae, 2020There were many stories on the news about how people would ‘let themselves go’ during lockdown... hence the booze and armpit hair in this image. I stuck furry material on to my armpit with double sided tape – not such a sensible idea as it wasn’t easy to remove… in fact I think there may still be some on there.© Stephen Shankland (2006)

9. “To Pastures New” by James Guthrie, 1883 / “Dreaming of Pastures New” by Ruth Maxwell, 2020One of Aberdeen Art Gallery’s most well-known paintings, this was an easy choice for me. I watched a YouTube video to show me how to make towel swans, and a couple of rubber gloves for feet.

See To Pasture’s New in Gallery 1: Collecting Art

10. “Kitty of Frying Pan Alley” by Sir Oswald Birley, 1921 / “Debbie of Peterculter Chalet” by Debbie Knorz, 2020I admired the melancholic quality of this painting. Here I used a laundry basket full of pots of flowers from my garden, which was quite heavy! A creative hairstyle, backwards hat and lots of blusher brought Kitty together. I like that my kitchen table leg can be seen at the bottom.See Kitty in Gallery 14: Art of Empowerment © The Artist's Estate

11. “Portrait of a Girl in a Tartan Dress” by Unknown Artist c1840 / “Portrait of a woman in a Backwards Dress” by Unknown Clicker, 2020My dress in this photograph was worn back to front, and not done up at the back. Each time I stood up to set the 10 second timer on my phone I had to quickly tuck it in again! The child’s book was replaced with a television remote, which was quite apt during lockdown.

12. “Woman on a Sofa” by James McBey, 1929 / “Vicki on her Sofa” by Vicki Frenz, 2020Another of my McBeys - just made using ‘props’ from around the house, and inspired by a pose that the cat is often in. Created using a Christmas fleece blanket, a footstool and some cushions with a radiator for a backdrop.

Explore James McBey’s life of art and adventure in Gallery 13.

13. As above with Trixie

14. “Savonarola’s Last Sleep” by George Reid, 1882 / “SadRhona’s Last Beer” by Rhona MacRae, 2020It turns out you can re-create the Grim Reaper using an easel, a nun’s habit and a pair of wellies – who knew? There were so many outtakes for this image, I was struggling to set up the camera, pull the sheet around me, lie back down and take my glasses off all before the ten second timer went off.

15. “Head of a Gypsy” by James Dickson Innes, 1909 / “Too much Red & Tipsy” by Ruth Jane Maxwell, 2020Taking selfies on a timer was tricky, which confuses your rights from lefts. As I don’t own any curling tongs, I wrapped my hair in old-fashioned rags the night before to create ringlets for this image.

16. “Mrs William Pirie Smith” by Archibald David Reid / “Mrs Willy Willy Knorz by Debbie Knorz, 2020This image took a bit of time to set up although I was limited with the space I had. I used my previous Gallowgate Lard image as the wall portrait, as well as various pieces of underwear on my head and around my neck!

17. “The Artist’s Grandmother” by James McBey, 1901 / “The Great Grandmother” by Vicki Frenz, 2020It bothers me that this is one of my best poses! So easy to make the grumpy face, and the outfit from an old towel, some lining fabric and curtain tape for the cap.

Explore James McBey’s life of art and adventure in Gallery 13.

18. “J.Y.M. Seated” by Frank Auerbach, 1976 / “R.A.M. Inebriated” by Rhona Ann MacRae, 2020I chose this painting because I thought I’d be able to pull that face… it turns out you really can’t force your bottom jaw to the left and raise your left eyebrow at the same time – are you trying that now?See J.Y.M.Seated in Gallery 18: People and Portraits © Frank Auerbach (2005)

19. “Bright Eyes” by John Everett Millais, 1877 / “Perky …..” by Ruth Maxwell, 2020Quite a simple portrait, however, impossible to re-create youth, unfortunately.See Bright Eyes in Gallery 1: Collecting Art

20. “Portrait of a Lady” by Artist Unknown, 1615-20 / “Portrait of a Trollop” by Debbie Knorz, 2020I originally avoided attempting this image as I thought it was rather complicated and dour. Once I had the idea to use the toilet rolls for the ruff, and other items were sourced, such as the old voile curtain for the sleeves and cuffs, cushion covers and bucket hat, it was quite fun.

21. “The Embroideress” by Harold Knight, 1921 / “The Temptress” by Vicki Frenz, 2020I had a great time collecting all the bits and bobs for this one – wool, fabric and furniture. I love lighting in this painting and was lucky how well the lighting turned out in the photo.See The Embroideress in Gallery 14: Art of Empowerment

22. “Feedback Loop” by Kenny Hunter, 2003 / “FeedMe Shop” by Rhona Hunter Gatherer, 2020In the early stages of lockdown, when supermarket shelves were empty, I felt ecstatic if I made it to the shops and actually found what was on my shopping list. I hoped this image would show that feeling. I had the bonus of some tattie and leek soup later too.See Feedback Loop by Kenny Hunter in Gallery 4: Human Presence © The Artist (2003)

23. “this is the end of you” by Katharine Aarrestad, 2008 / “Don’t Start with Me” by Ruth Maxwell, 2020This image was challenging. It was the only portrait I chose which had blonde hair, so sticking to the rules of not buying anything in, I recreated the girl’s hair with a dozen yellow rubber gloves. Achieving the pose within the 10 second timer was also difficult, which meant many, many outtakes!

See this is the end of you in Gallery 1: Collecting Art © Katherine Aarrestad (2008)

24. “La guitare” by Marie Laurencin, 1935 / “La wicker and rulers” by Debbie Knorz, 2020I always associate this painting with Aberdeen Art Gallery and was keen to interpret it but I had no access to a guitar. Instead I made one from a wicker basket, CD and two steel rulers. I only wish I had painted my face white!

See La Guitare in Gallery 18: People and Portraits © Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

25. “The Twa Corbies” by Campbell Lindsay Smith, 1901 / “The Twa Cocktails” by Vicki Frenz, 2020Didn’t manage to take the photograph from the right angle, but enjoyed re-creating the painting. Cut the corbies from black paper and couldn’t keep them from moving in the breeze. Outfit made from kilt socks, a red top and an old towel. Added the empty gin bottle for an authentic lockdown feeling.

PIC CAPTION; left to right, Vicky Frenz, Rhona MacRae, Ruth Maxwell & Debbie Knorz