The Hay Wain suffered minor damage on Monday as environmental activists attached their “apocalyptic vision of the future” to John Constable’s masterpiece.
Two Just Stop Oil protesters staged the protest at the National Gallery yesterday before glueing themselves to the frame of the 200-year-old artwork.
Experts found minor damage to the frame and the varnish covering the painting after removing it for examination. A spokesman for the National Gallery said both “have already been successfully treated”.
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 scheduled to be hung again before the gallery opens on Tuesday. The gallery has not confirmed whether more security will be on site.
Activists Eben Lazarus and Hannah Hunt, veterans of the Insulate Britain protests, placed the “apocalyptic” version of Hay Wain between the canvas and its frame. His alternate version featured burnt-out cars and a plane in the rural landscape of Constable.
Lazarus, a 22-year-old music student, said before his arrest that he was a “Hay Wain that demonstrates our path to disaster.”
He attended the protest alongside Hunt, 23, a psychology student who helped found Just Stop Oil after orchestrating protests by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain.
She released a statement that read: “You can forget about our ‘green and pleasant land’ when more oil extraction leads to widespread crop failures, which means we will be fighting for food. Ultimately, the new fossil fuels are a death project for our government.”
The group said it targeted the National Gallery because it “had no choice but to continue to target major cultural and local events to bring attention to the greatest crime against humanity”.
The Hay Wain’s value 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 last week allegedly attacked a Scottish art gallery and stormed the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
Five men, aged between 21 and 46, and two women, aged between 20 and 44, were arrested after a track invasion on the first lap of the race at Silverstone.
The incident was not shown on F1’s global television feed, but eyewitness footage emerged of five people – believed to represent Just Stop Oil – entering the circuit on Wellington Straight. They then sat on the track.
Five members of Just Stop Oil also joined My Heart’s In The Highlands, a 19th century landscape by Horatio McCulloch at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
They also reportedly smeared the group’s logo on the gallery’s walls and floor in orange paint.