Just Stop Oil activists paste apocalyptic vision over John Constable's Hay Wain at National Gallery

Protesters from Just Stop Oil climate protest group, cover John Constable's The Hay Wain with their own picture at the National Gallery, London.
Protesters from Just Stop Oil climate protest group, cover John Constable's The Hay Wain with their own picture at the National Gallery, London. Credit: PA Images

Climate change protesters have covered a painting at London's National Gallery with “an apocalyptic vision of the future.”

Two Just Stop Oil protesters attached themselves to the frame of John Constable’s painting The Hay Wain on Monday.

The protest forced the evacuation of visitors and a class of 11 year-old children on a school trip from the room where the masterpiece hangs.

A National Gallery spokesman said that two people entered Room 34 and “appeared to glue themselves to the frame of The Hay Wain by John Constable”.

The protesters, a man and a woman wearing white t-shirts bearing the slogan 'Just Stop Oil' stepped over a rope barrier.

They then placed what looked like a large colour paper print on to the front of the large-scale painting.

Each also placed a hand on the frame of the painting and knelt beneath it before loudly stating their concerns as visitors were ushered out by security staff.

The male protester, later named by JSO as music student Eben Lazarus, 22, of Brighton, said: “Art is important. It should be held for future generations to see, but when there is no food what use is art.

“When there is no water, what use is art. When billions of people are in pain and suffering, what use then is art?”

Protester and psychology student Hannah Hunt, 23, also from Brighton, later said “the disruption will end when the UK Government makes a meaningful statement that it will end new oil and gas licences”.

She added: “I’m here because our government plans to license 40 new UK oil and gas projects in the next few years."

“This makes them complicit in pushing the world towards an unliveable climate and in the death of billions of people in the coming decades.

“You can forget our ‘green and pleasant land’ when further oil extraction will lead to widespread crop failures which means we will be fighting for food. Ultimately, new fossil fuels are a death project by our Government.

“So yes, there is glue on the frame of this painting but there is blood on the hands of our government.”

A spokesman for the NG said the room was closed to the public and police were called.

They said later: “The painting was removed from the wall to be examined by our conservation team. 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 painting will be rehung in Room 34 ready for when the National Gallery opens at 10am on Tuesday.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “At approximately 14.25 on Monday officers were called to a protest taking place inside the National Gallery involving two people.”

The Hay Wain, which was painted in 1821, is one of the most popular paintings at the gallery.

The rural Suffolk landscape piece depicts a wagon returning to the fields across a shallow ford for another load.

'The Hay Wain' was painted in 1821 Credit: The National Gallery

Mr Lazarus said: “We have stuck a reimagined version of the Hay Wain that demonstrates our road to disaster.”

JSO said they had created a scene that depicts “the climate collapse and what it will do to this landscape.”

It is the latest demonstration by the group, which in the past week has allegedly targeted a Scottish art gallery and stormed the track at Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

Five men, aged between 21 and 46, and two women, 20 and 44, were arrested after a track invasion during the opening lap of the race at Silverstone.

The incident was not shown on F1’s global television feed.

However eyewitness footage emerged of five people – understood to be representing JSO – entering the circuit at the high-speed Wellington Straight.

They then sat down on the tarmac.

It comes on the same day that fuel protesters staged demonstrations across the UK calling for lower petrol prices.

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