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Anti-oil protesters glue themselves and attach ‘apocalyptic vision’ to Suffolk painter John Constable’s The Hay Wain at London's National Gallery



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Two climate change protesters have glued themselves to the frame of Suffolk-born painter John Constable’s masterpiece The Hay Wain.

The Just Stop Oil (JSO) protesters also attached their own image of 'an apocalyptic vision of the future' of the landscape, on three large sheets of paper, featuring an old car dumped in front of the Mill and the Hay Wain cart carrying an old washing machine.

The protesters struck at central London’s National Gallery today, forcing the evacuation of art lovers, tourists and a class of 11-year-old children on a school trip from the room where the painting hangs.

Protesters from Just Stop Oil climate protest group covered John Constable’s The Hay Wain with their own picture inside the National Gallery, London. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
Protesters from Just Stop Oil climate protest group covered John Constable’s The Hay Wain with their own picture inside the National Gallery, London. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Constable, who was born in East Bergholt, is famous for his landscape paintings, most of which - including The Hay Wain - are of the Suffolk countryside.

The protesters were later named by JSO as music student Eben Lazarus, 22, and psychology student Hannah Hunt, 23, both of Brighton.

They wore white T-shirts with the logo Just Stop Oil, stepped over a rope barrier and then placed the printed coloured paper on to the front of the painting.

Protesters cover John Constable’s The Hay Wain with their own picture. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
Protesters cover John Constable’s The Hay Wain with their own picture. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

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

During the protest Lazarus, who described himself himself as an art lover, 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.”

The Hay Wain, which was painted in 1821, is one of the most popular paintings at the gallery and shows a rural Suffolk scene a wagon returning to the fields across a shallow ford for another load.

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'.

In a statement, Hunt 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.

Protesters from the Just Stop Oil climate group. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
Protesters from the Just Stop Oil climate group. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

“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 National Gallery said: “The room has been closed to the public and police have been called.

The protesters glued their hands to the frame of John Constable’s The Hay Wain. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
The protesters glued their hands to the frame of John Constable’s The Hay Wain. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

“Gallery staff, including members of the conservation team, are also in attendance.”

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.”

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

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

The room was evacuated. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
The room was evacuated. Picture: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

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

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 Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

They are also alleged to have sprayed the group’s logo on the walls and floor of the renowned gallery in orange paint.