Two climate activists glued themselves to a 200-year-old masterpiece at London’s National Gallery on Monday, the latest in a string of disruptive protests by British environmentalist group Just Stop Oil.
The pair covered John Constable’s famous landscape painting “The Hay Wain” with a modified version of the image before sticking their hands to its frame.
Activists glued their hands to the frame of “The Hay Wain” after covering it with a mock version of the painting. Credit: Carlos Jasso/AFP/Getty Images
Completed in 1821, “The Hay Wain” is among Britain’s best-known artworks. Depicting the Stour river, which divides the English counties of Suffolk and Essex, it is considered one of Constable’s quintessential paintings.
The protesters’ modified version saw the river replaced with a paved road, with factory smokestacks depicted in the background and airplanes flying overhead.
Just Stop Oil, which is calling for the UK government to block licenses for future oil and gas extraction, has since identified the demonstrators as students Hannah Hunt and Eben Lazarus. London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed to CNN that two people had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and were later released on bail pending further inquiries.
In a video of Monday’s incident, posted to Just Stop Oil’s Twitter account, Lazarus, a 22-year-old music student, can be heard telling onlookers that the “reimagined” version of the painting “shows the destructive nature of our addiction to oil.”
“I want to work in the arts, not disrupt them,” he is heard saying. “But the situation we’re in means we have to do everything non-violently possible to prevent the civilizational collapse that we are hurtling towards.”
The National Gallery said the painting had been removed from view following the incident and has since been examined by conservators.
“‘The Hay Wain’ suffered minor damage to its frame and there was also some disruption to the surface of the varnish on the painting — both of which have now been successfully dealt with,” the gallery told CNN in a statement, adding that the painting will be back on display from Tuesday morning.
Just Stop Oil climate activists also glued themselves to a Van Gogh painting at London’s Courtauld Gallery last week. Credit: Kristian Buus/In Pictures/Getty Images
Founded in early 2022, Just Stop Oil has embarked on several high-profile protests in recent months. In March, a Premier League soccer match was halted when a demonstrator tied himself to one of the goal posts.
Last month, four of the group’s supporters covered the exterior wall and steps of the UK government’s Treasury headquarters with red paint.
In a press release issued by the group on Monday, 23-year-old Hunt said the protests would only end when “the UK government makes a meaningful statement that it will end new oil and gas licenses.”
“Ultimately, new fossil fuels are a death project by our government,” the psychology student is quoted as saying.
“So yes there is glue on the frame of this painting but there is blood on the hands of our government.”
Top image caption: Just Stop Oil activists glued to the frame of “The Hay Wain” painting by John Constable at London’s National Gallery.