Russians embrace isolation by recreating famous artworks

MOSCOW — In the coronavirus lockdown, Russians can’t go to their beloved and renowned museums. So they’re filling the holes in their souls by recreating artworks while stuck at home and posting them on social media.

The Facebook group where the works are posted has become a huge hit. The art recreations range from studious and reverent to flippant and goofy. They're done both by Russians and Russian-speakers abroad.

Some 350,000 people are following the group, where thousands of photos are posted, each showing the original work and the mockup made at home. The rules say it must only use items on hand and can’t be digitally manipulated.

There are some impressive surprises in the collection. Vitaly Fonarev carefully recreated the clothes and headdress of Johannes Vermeer's “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and captured the Dutch artist's famous glowing light. The work is so convincing that it takes a few moments to notice that the “girl” actually is a man with a few days' worth of beard stubble.

Irina Kazatsker found the project perfect for her skills. The Canadian photographer had the lights and the backdrops to do a loving recreation of Picasso's “The Frugal Meal”— with the sly twist of putting a roll of toilet paper on the table.

“I decided to add a provocative detail that corresponds to the spirit of the time,” she said.

Unlike the hours of work that went into elaborate recreations, some appear to have been knocked off in a matter of minutes but are no less appealing.

Natalia Rubina's rendition of Edvard Munch's “The Scream” involved simply making a hole in a poster of the painting at the spot showing an anguished man's head, then getting a dog to stick its head through. The dog appears nonplussed.

Katrusya Kosilkova employed an extensive palette of paints and careful brushwork to make her face a copy of the garish colors and fractured perspective of Picasso's “Weeping Woman.” It was time well-spent, in her view.

“I really think this is a megacool idea. It gives people unbelievably positive emotions and develops creative thinking," she said. “It helps people from different parts of the world to communicate with one another, to discuss new topics, mechanisms, and on top of this it increases our knowledge about art.”

Katerina Brudnaya-Chelyadinova, a co-founder of the project, is pleased by the wide attention it has received.

“A boy from Italy wrote a post in English saying that our group brought him out of the depths of the tragedy that is happening around him. I was sitting there and I couldn’t hold back my tears because if this can bring happiness to someone, somewhere on the opposite side of the world, then all of this isn’t for nothing,"she said.