Two protesters arrested for throwing soup on Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ 

1 min read
A handout picture from the Just Stop Oil climate campaign group shows activists with their hands glued to the wall under Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" after throwing tomato soup on the painting at the National Gallery in central London on October 14, 2022. Credit line: Handout / AFP / Profimedia

Two demonstrators were arrested in London’s National Gallery on Friday after throwing tinned soup at one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous paintings, part of a protest against fossil fuels. 

The protestors, wearing T-shirts from the Just Stop Oil movements, threw the contents of two tins of Heinz Tomato soup over the 1888 work “Sunflowers” shortly after 11 am on Friday, before kneeling down in front of the painting and appearing to glue their hands to the wall beneath it.

Tomato soup covered the image, which is covered by glass, as well as parts of the golden frame. Visitors were then escorted out by security, who shut the doors to room 43 of the gallery where the painting hangs.

One of the activists, 21-year-old Phoebe Plummer from London, said in front of the painting: “What is worth more, art or life? Is it worth more than food? Worth more than justice?

“Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting, or the protection of our planet and people? The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of oil crisis.”

The Metropolitan Police said: “Officers were rapidly on scene at the National Gallery this morning after two Just Stop Oil protesters threw a substance over a painting and then glued themselves to a wall. Both have been arrested for criminal damage and aggravated trespass.

“Officers are now debonding them.”

“Sunflowers” is the second, more famous, Van Gogh painting to be targeted by the group, with two climate activists glueing themselves to his 1889 “Peach Trees in Blossom,” exhibited at the Courtauld Gallery, at the end of June.

Painted in Arles in the south of France in August 1888, Van Gogh’s painting shows 15 sunflowers standing in a yellow pot against a yellow background.

The work is also the second from the National Gallery to be selected as a target for protest action by Just Stop Oil, with two supporters glueing themselves to John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” on July 4.

They had attached their own “reimagined version” to the portrait, before glueing themselves to the frame.

Representatives from the organization have also targeted a landscape painting by Horatio McCulloch, “My Heart’s In The Highlands,” in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, as well as a 500-year-old copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Summer” in London’s Royal Academy.

Thursday marked the 14th day of “continuous disruption” by the environmental protest group, which has also seen protesters block several key roads in the capital over the course of the fortnight.

The National Gallery said: “At just after 11am this morning two people entered Room 43 of the National Gallery.

“The pair appeared to glue themselves to the wall adjacent to Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ (1888). They also threw a red substance – what appears to be tomato soup – over the painting.

“The room was cleared of visitors and police were called. Officers are now on the scene. There is some minor damage to the frame but the painting is unharmed.” ©dpa

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