Two Just Stop Oil eco-warriors now stick to the frame of a constable painting the Hay Wain at the National Gallery.
The protesters, who said they were a couple, shouted their demands for the government to halt further oil and gas extraction as their hands were glued to the masterpiece described as one of ‘the most beautiful English paintings greatest and most popular” of all time.
Student activist Hannah Hunt, 23, shouted at passers-by: “Yes my hand is stuck to this board but there is blood on the government’s hands.”
A National Gallery spokesman said police were called to the exhibition which was closed to the public.
Widely regarded as John Constable’s most famous landscape, the six-foot Hay Wain (1821) shows an idyllic rural scene with a cart in the River Stour in Suffolk.
Activists also slapped a reimagined version of the masterpiece which ‘depicts a nightmarish scene that shows how oil is going to destroy our countryside’.
The group said in a statement: ‘The river is gone to be replaced by a road, planes fill the skies, pollution belches cities on the horizon, trees are scorched by forest fires, an old car is pier in front of the mill and the famous Hay Wain cart carries an old washing machine.
Ms Hunt, a psychology student at Brighton, said: “I am here because our government plans to license 40 new oil and gas projects in the UK over the next few years.
“It makes them complicit in pushing the world towards an unlivable climate and the deaths of billions of people in the decades to come.”
The other activist, Eben Lazarus, describes himself as an art lover.
He 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.
He added: “We’ve covered the Hay Wain with a reimagined version that illustrates the impact of our reliance on fossil fuels on our campaign.
“Painting is an important part of our heritage, but it is no more important than the 3.5 billion men, women and children already at risk because of the climate crisis.”
A National Gallery spokesperson said: ‘They have also covered the surface of the painting with three sheets of what appears to be paper featuring a reimagined version of The Hay Wain.
“The couple appear to be Just Stop Oil activists. The room was closed to the public and the police were called. Gallery staff – including members of the curatorial team – are also present.
In 2013, a protester, believed to be linked to Fathers 4 Justice, pasted a photograph of a young boy onto the painting while it was on display at the National Gallery.
The work has not been permanently damaged.