Just Stop Oil activists provoked fury today as they carried out a protest at the National Gallery by covering John Constable’s The Hay Wain with their own version featuring double yellow lines, pollution and a washing machine.
Two students who are eco demonstrators covered the world-famous painting in London with a mock ‘undated’ version including aircraft, before gluing their hands to the frame in a protest against UK oil and gas projects.
The group said their reimagined version of the 1821 priceless work, which depicts a rural scene on the River Stour in Suffolk, shows a ‘nightmare scene that demonstrates how oil will destroy our countryside’.
Art historians and experts have all raised concerns that the vandals, two Brighton university students who have appeared at Just Stop Oil protests before, could have caused irreparable damage to the 19th century masterpiece.
The National Gallery later released a statement clarifying The Hay Wain suffered minor damage to its frame and on the painting’s varnish, both of which have been dealt with before it is re-hung in Gallery Room 34 on Tuesday.
Dr Adrian Hilton, who is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, said today: ‘How is this even possible in the National Gallery? I mean, it’s a John Constable masterpiece; a national treasure. Is it really this easy to paper over or – God forbid – destroy it?’
Other art lovers reacted with fury today, with one tweeting: ‘Never mind about these losers. Where is the security? What were the guards doing while they stuck the ‘reimagined version’ on the original? Checking their WhatsApps?’