Living Paintings

Classic works of art recreated through inspirational photography

A stunning collection of photographs paying homage to the classic works of art which inspired them, has been unveiled.

In a special partnership between the local Historical and Mythical Imagery (H&MI) Group and Hatton Gallery, scenes from two of the beautiful Old Master paintings from the gallery’s recent exhibition were re-enacted using real people and props. 

 It is a unique and exciting take on two great works of medieval art – The Lamentation: After Hugo van der Goes (c1430-1482) and The Drunkenness of Noah c1590 by Camillo Procaccini. Members of the public were invited to the Hatton Gallery to watch the recreation in action, while the stories behind the paintings were told by local historian Anthony Atkinson. 

The Lamentation, after Hugo van der Goes

The Drunkenness of Noah, by Camillo Procaccini

About the project

Phil Punton, the North East photographer behind the Living Paintings project, said: “Art can inspire people in lots of ways and I love to use lighting, colour and texture to create my own interpretation of classic paintings. The project is a great way to show respect and appreciation for great works of art. It has been a fantastic experience and so special to involve many people and see their enjoyment from it.   

“It’s no easy feat to take a work of art and recreate the exact positioning, but we had so much fun trying. The members of the public who came along to the shoot really got involved and helped the group out so that we could get the expressions and the detail as close as possible.” 

The Old Master paintings were part of a recent exhibition, A Philosophy for Teaching Art: The Development of the Hatton Collection. They included the 16th Century (c1560) Lamentation (meaning passionate expression of grief or sorrow), a copy of a design by Hugo van der Goes, a prominent artist from the Netherlands, depicting a group tending to Jesus. Only a fragment of the original remains at Christ Church, Oxford. In The Drunkenness of Noah, artist Procaccini depicts the scene of Noah and his sons in glorious, jewel-like colour. 

Zoe Allen, Arts Participation Officer at Hatton Gallery said: “It has been fantastic to be involved in the Living Paintings project and to showcase some of the Hatton collection in a new and interesting way. The feedback from members of the public has been wonderful and the photographs created are brilliant. Anything that encourages more people to get involved in art is a great thing.”  

The ambitious project brought volunteers together in a variety of creative ways, including costume makers, performers and artists, who make up the Historic and Mythical Imagery Group. 

Pat Dunscombe, a retired nurse from Forest Hall, is one of the founding members of the group and took part in its very first shoot at Newcastle’s Castle Keep over two years ago. Pat helped to create the costumes for the project. She is also part of a local re-enactment group and loves seeing history brought to life. Pat said: “In the build up to the shoot, we hosted a series of workshops involving members of the public in creating the renaissance costumes, which has been great fun. I love history and after I semi-retired in 2010, I had more time to enjoy my hobby. Many of the group met taking part in various productions as film extras. Everyone has a great laugh and we all just get stuck in.” 

Local artist Phyllis Benoist, 69, from Wallsend, painted the backgrounds for the photographs and said: “I have been painting since I was at school and love art so I was very happy to get involved. The backgrounds were recreated to help set the scene for the models. It’s paying tribute to something historic.” 

35-year-old Anna Chouler from Morpeth, is a marine conservationist and enjoys performance and extra work in her spare time. She is a member of the Historic and Mythical Imagery Group and took on the role of the Virgin Mary in The Lamentation. Anna said: “It’s great to be part of a big group of people with a wide set of skills, where everyone contributes so much. We enjoy the challenge of recreating paintings and creating our own version in respect to the originals. It’s a real team effort – everyone pulls together and helps each other out. We’re already looking forward to the next challenge!” 

 Screenwriter David Jewell, 60, from Cramlington, played the role of Joseph of Arimathea in The Lamentation. He said: “I came on board earlier this year after Phil got in touch about the project and it’s great to be involved in something the whole team is so enthusiastic about. Hopefully this will encourage more people to come and see more beautiful, original works of art.” 

 Jo Brossman, owns The Little Sewing Room in Heaton. She has been working with the team to design and make the costumes for the shoot. Jo said: “My passion is in creating historic costumes. I’m used to working by myself so it has been lovely working with the team and involving members of the public, to get everything ready. It’s been such an interesting project, we’ve been using authentic materials to create the costumes to make everything as close to life as possible. One member of the public came into the workshops with very little experience and actually ended up creating a hat for the shoot – she was so overjoyed with what she’d done and it’s been a real pleasure helping people learn new skills.”   

 Anthony Sharp, 62, from Stakeford in Northumberland, is a musician and also does film extra work. He was one of the performers on the day and said: “The first painting we recreated as a group was The Last Supper a few years ago. Everyone enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a regular thing and we all chip in with ideas for paintings we would like to recreate. The Hatton Gallery shoot has been brilliant to be a part of.” 

Visit for more information about this and other projects connected to Phil Punton’s work with the Historic and Mythical Imagery Group.