Two climate change protesters stuck to the frame of John Constable’s masterpiece The Hay Wain.
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, depicting an old car abandoned in front of the mill and the hay cart carrying an old washing machine.
Protesters pounded the National Gallery (NG) in central London on Monday, forcing the evacuation of art lovers, tourists and a class of 11-year-olds on a school trip from the room where hangs table.
They were later named by JSO as music student Eben Lazarus, 22, and psychology student Hannah Hunt, 23, both from Brighton.
They wore white T-shirts with the Just Stop Oil logo, stepped over a rope barrier, and then placed the printed colored paper on the front of the board.
Each also placed a hand on the painting frame and knelt below before voicing their concerns aloud as visitors were led away by security personnel.
During the protest, Lazare, who describes himself as an art lover, said, “Art is important. It should be kept for future generations to see, but when there’s no food, what’s the use of art.
“When there is no water, what is the use of art. When billions of people suffer and suffer, then what is the use of art.
The Hay Wain, which was painted in 1821, is one of the gallery’s most popular paintings and shows a rural Suffolk scene of a wagon returning to the fields across a shallow ford for another load.
Lazarus said, “We’ve pasted a reimagined version of the Hay Wain that shows our way to disaster.”
In a statement, Hunt later said “disruption will end when the UK government makes a meaningful statement that it will end new oil and gas licensing.”
She added: “I am here because our government plans to license 40 new oil and gas projects in the UK over the next few years.
“This makes them complicit in pushing the world towards an unlivable climate and the deaths of billions of people in the decades to come.
“You can forget about our ‘green and pleasant land’ when continued oil extraction leads to widespread crop failures, which means we will fight 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 our government’s hands.”
A spokesman for the NG said: “The room was closed to the public and the police were called.
“Gallery staff, including members of the curatorial team, are also present.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘At approximately 2.25pm on Monday officers were called to a protest which was taking place inside the National Gallery involving two people.
It is the latest protest by the group which last week reportedly targeted a Scottish art gallery and stormed the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
Five men, aged 21 to 46, and two women, aged 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 TV feed, but eyewitness footage emerged of five people – believed to represent JSO – entering the circuit at the Wellington Straight at high speed.
They then sat down on the tarmac.
Five JSO members are also said to have become attached 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 are also accused of spraying the band’s logo on the walls and floor of the famous gallery with orange paint.