Vandalism on Van Gogh

A personal opinion on the protests projected on art, speaking out about the impact of fossil fuels.


Graphic by Rachel Han

Two protesters associated with the organization Just Stop Oil poured two cans of soup on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, ‘Sunflowers’.

Shock filled London’s National Gallery as two cans of tomato soup were thrown on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting ‘Sunflowers’ (1888) as a form of protest. On Oct. 14, two protesters, Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland, under the organization Just Stop Oil spoke out about the issues regarding the usage of fossil fuels.They had both been arrested on the scene, and the painting was not damaged due to protection from a glass. 

Just Stop Oil is an organization based in the U.K., attempting to bring awareness on the harmful effects fossil fuels have on the environment. According to the FAQ section in their website, Just Stop Oil’s mission is to end, “all new licenses and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the [U.K.]”

“What is worth more? Art or life? Is it worth more than food? Worth more than justice?” Plummer said. During her protest, she also spoke out about how the oil crisis is contributing to the rise in living costs. “Fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup.”

The protest became controversial and led to a rise in varying opinions on the protesters and their actions. People chose to speak out on social media, on platforms like Twitter, to voice their feelings.


Both opinions can be understood to certain extents. Learning about the impact that fossil fuels have on others’ lives and the planet is important, but it is also important in how you spread the message as well. Ending the reliance on fossil fuels will help create a more sustainable future for everyone. Just Stop Oil’s goal is fully supportable, and it’s valuable to share awareness of our planet’s current state. But it leads to a lingering question, why does the idea of a ruined painting shock people more than a ruined environment?

Plummer and Holland did their job gaining the attention of the public. It’s understandable that protesters need to cross a line, or a boundary, in order to grasp attention. However, by attempting to vandalize a painting of a marveled artist like Van Gogh, people are bound to dislike their actions. Protests being done in this form can cause people to look down upon climate change awareness and other anti-fossil fuel movements.

People who do not approve of the Just Stop Oil protesters have felt that this protest was a mini act of terrorism on art pieces to push this agenda. The conditions of our environment shouldn’t be controversial, everyone should work together in making changes.