Constable masterpiece The Hay Wain damaged in Just Stop Oil protest

·3 min read
Protesters from Just Stop Oil glued their hands to the frame of John Constable's The Hay Wain - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protesters from Just Stop Oil glued their hands to the frame of John Constable's The Hay Wain - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

The Hay Wain suffered minor damage on Monday when environmental activists attached their “apocalyptic vision of the future” to the John Constable masterpiece.

Two Just Stop Oil protesters carried out the protest at the National Gallery yesterday before gluing themselves to the frame of the 200-year-old artwork.

Experts found minor damage to the frame and the varnish covering the painting after taking it down for examination. A spokesman for the National Gallery said both “have now been successfully dealt with”.

The protesters were arrested by Met Police officers on suspicion of criminal damage after visitors were evacuated from the room in which The Hay Wain hangs.

The painting was set to be rehung ahead of the gallery’s opening on Tuesday. The gallery has not confirmed whether more security staff will be on site.

Activists Eben Lazarus and Hannah Hunt, a veteran of Insulate Britain protests, stuck the “apocalyptic” version of the Hay Wain between the canvas and its frame.  Their alternative version featured burnt out cars and a plane in Constable’s country landscape.

The protesters attached their ‘apocalyptic vision of the future’ to The Hay Wain
The protesters attached their ‘apocalyptic vision of the future’ to The Hay Wain
They wore white T-shirts bearing the slogan Just Stop Oil
They wore white T-shirts bearing the slogan Just Stop Oil

Mr Lazarus, a 22-year-old music student, said before his arrest that it was a “Hay Wain that demonstrates our road to disaster”.

He took part in the protest alongside 23-year-old Ms Hunt, a psychology student who helped found Just Stop Oil after orchestrating protests for Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain.

She released a statement that said:  “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.”

The group said it had targeted the National Gallery because it had “no choice but to continue to target major cultural events and locations in order to gain attention for the biggest crime against humanity”.

The value of The Hay Wain is unclear, but the record price for a Constable at auction was £22.5 million for The Lock in 2012.

It is the latest demonstration by Just Stop Oil, which in the past week has allegedly targeted a Scottish art gallery and stormed the British Grand Prix on Sunday.

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 incident was not shown on F1’s global television feed, but eyewitness footage emerged of five people – understood to be representing Just Stop Oil – entering the circuit at the Wellington Straight. They then sat down on the tarmac.

Five Just Stop Oil members are also said to have attached themselves to My Heart’s In The Highlands, a 19th century landscape by Horatio McCulloch 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 gallery in orange paint.

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