Climate change protesters have attached their own image of “an apocalyptic vision of the future” to the list of John Constable’s masterpiece, The Hay Wain.
Two Just Stop Oil (JSO) supporters hit the National Gallery in central London on Monday, forcing art lovers, tourists and a class of 11-year-old children on a school trip to be evacuated from the room where the painting hangs.
A spokesman for the National Gallery (NG) said two people entered room 34 and “appeared to be glued to the frame of John Constable’s The Hay Wain (1821)”.
The protesters, a man and a woman in white T-shirts with the slogan Just Stop Oil, stepped over a rope fence.
They then placed what appeared to be a large color paper print on the front of the large-scale painting.
Each also placed a hand on the painting’s frame and knelt beneath it before loudly expressing concern as visitors were led outside by security personnel.
The male protester, who identified himself as an art lover named Eben, said: “Art is important. It should be preserved for future generations to see, but if there is no food, what good is art.
“What good is art if there is no water. If billions of people are in pain and suffering, what’s the point of art.”
The Harvestman, painted in 1821, is one of the most popular paintings in the gallery and depicts a rural Suffolk scene, a wagon returning to the fields across a shallow ford for a fresh load.
Eben said, “We taped a redesigned version of the harvestman that shows our way to disaster.”
JSO said they created a scene that depicts “the collapse of the climate and what it will do to this landscape.”
The NG spokesperson said: “They also covered the surface of the painting with three sheets of what appears to be paper with a redesigned version of The Hay Wain.
“The pair appear to be Just Stop Oil activists.
“The room is closed to the public and the police have been called.
“Gallery staff, including members of the conservation team, are also in attendance.”
It is the latest demonstration from the group that in the past week reportedly attacked a Scottish art gallery and stormed Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
Five men, aged between 21 and 46, and two women, 20 and 44, were arrested after a track invasion on the opening lap of the race at Silverstone.
The incident was not shown on F1’s global television feed, but eyewitness footage emerged of five people – allegedly representing JSO – entering the track on the high-speed Wellington Straight. They then sat down on the asphalt.
Five JSO members are also said to have attached themselves to a 19th-century landscape by Horatio McCulloch called My Heart’s In The Highlands, which hangs in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.
They would also have sprayed the group logo with orange paint on the walls and floor of the renowned gallery.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “At approximately 2:25 pm on Monday, July 4, officers were called to a protest that took place at the National Gallery, WC2 involving two people.”