Van Gogh’s Sunflower Paintings Attacked by Climate Activists


The sunflower painting features a remarkable piece of art by Van Gogh that utilized the oil technique on a canvas. To Van Gogh, the paintings were significant art pieces for gratitude and worthy protection. He would later produce other works for the same painting, with one kept at Van Gogh Museum that would later be vandalized by the climate activists from Just Stop Oil Organization. According to the activist, art is not just a piece of villain, but the materials used and the art itself can contribute much to the sustainability goals of the global climate (Gayle, 2022). With The Just Stop Oil activist revolution, the strife is to resist the material use of oil as a method to push the government against fossil fuel licensing (Just Stop Oil, 2022). Thus, the attack on the painting formed part of a revolution against oil use as an approach to advocate for eco-friendly art materials and a campaign using art pieces to help drive their agenda to the government.

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Just Stop Oil Organization

Launched on February 2022, the Just Stop Oil movement is a group of environmental activists in the UK holding civil meetings and causing resistance against the use of oil. The activist aim is to force a commitment of the UK government to develop policies and push for a halt in fossil fuel production or further licensing (Just Stop Oil, 2022). In operation, the group engages in stunts focused on grabbing the public and government’s attention to deliver their needs and commitments (Kennicott, 2022). According to the group, the world is facing an emergency rise in global temperatures caused by anthropogenic activities using fossil fuels that require an immediate response or lest an extinction is experienced (Dewan, 2022). Thus, the group is committed to working with ultimatums that focus on pushing for quick action.

Failure by the government to commit to licensing issues with the oil use led to the group’s realization in pushing for the other agenda using other avenues, including vandalization and protests. The destruction also included attacking artworks like the Sunflower painted by Van Gogh from the Museum. To the activist, there is no apparent reason why an artwork should be protected if the government does not care about human health and ecosystem sustainability (Dewan, 2022). In addition to risking their freedom, the group communicates with its audience for a free call. To the activist, there is no freedom if the government cannot act to protect the ecosystem and the health of its components (Kennicott, 2022). For instance, the attack on artworks is an invitation to the art industry to use talent to drive the campaign and not only for villain purposes. Thus, the movement is in arms to have every possible companion help them drive the agenda

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Justification for the Attack

To the activist, the concern is not much on the use of oil as part of the artwork. Instead, the activist view of the protection and priority given to the painting is a perception that the artwork has no contribution to the living standards of the majority. Unlike artwork, fossil fuel production and use is the major contributor to the greenhouse gasses that contribute a higher percentage of global warming (Dewan, 2022). However, the protection and valuation accorded to the pieces of art by the locals and the government override the reason to consider fossil fuels’ implications for the sustainability of nature and human life (Kennicott, 2022). The activist call for every attack was for the audience to outweigh the essence of protecting the environment to artwork.

Secondly, the activist’s sunflower artwork attack directly assaults the artist who uses his work to communicate and influence. The revolution recognizes the power of artwork in driving a population and the entire government toward a purposeful agenda (Dewan, 2022). By attacking the Sunflower painting amongst other paints, the activist does acknowledge the value and the honor accorded to such a painting (Gayle, 2022). After the tomato paste smearing, the activist asked the audience to choose between protecting a painting or a climatic concern (Gayle, 2022). The call is on a campaign to have the art world shift focus in using the arts as part of the movement to help drive the global warming concern and help protect the future.


The Just Stop Oil Movement establishment was on an excellent course to campaign for green energy use and minimum reduction in fossil fuel use. Unfortunately, though operating with ultimatums to the government, the movement resorted to other unlawful actions, including vandalism of art pieces like Sunflower by Van Gogh. According to the group, the attack was influenced by artistic value, the use of oil in painting, and the protection accorded to the artwork. The attacked paint enjoys a massive following and is valued and protected more than the government is committed to protecting its citizens against global warming. Thus, the activist is banking on the opportunity and vandalism as an approach to gain fame and pull other groups with massive influence, like the artist, to help drive the campaign to have the government stop oil licensing.

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  1. Dewan, P. (2022, October 25). Just stop oil explains why they are throwing food at art. Newsweek.
  2. Gayle, D. (2022, October 14). Just stop oil activists throw soup at van Gogh’s sunflowers. The Guardian.
  3. Just Stop Oil. (2021, December 18). Just Stop Oil – No More Oil and Gas.
  4. Kennicott, P. (2022). When activists attacked van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers,’ they affirmed its power. MSN.
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