(I NEWS) - ‘The Morning Walk’ by Thomas Gainsborough, one of the 18th century’s most recognised artists (National Gallery)
A valuable painting by celebrated British artist Thomas Gainsborough was attacked by a visitor to the National Gallery on Saturday.
A “sharp instrument” was used by a member of the public to make two long scratches in the 1785 work ‘The Morning Walk’.
The incident took place in Room 34, which houses British paintings, in the East Wing of the gallery.
Members of the public helped Gallery Assistants to restrain the attacker, who was later arrested by the Metropolitan police.
The entire East Wing was evacuated and closed after the incident but reopened within two hours.
“The damage is limited to two long scratches which have penetrated the paint layers, but not the supporting canvas,” a statement by the National Gallery said.
“The painting was removed from display and examined by the Gallery’s conservators, who are now assessing next steps.”
Keith Gregory, 63, of no fixed abode, was charged on Sunday with causing criminal damage to a painting at the gallery. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
‘The Morning Walk’ depicts a wealthy young couple, Mr and Mrs William Hallett, both 21, strolling through woodland.
According to the National Gallery: “Portraits of wealthy sitters posed in a natural setting and dressed in their finest (but not necessarily most practical) clothes were a popular status symbol.
“The light, feathery brushstrokes used to describe the landscape are typical of Gainsborough’s late style. William’s hair and Elizabeth’s gauzy shawl almost blend into the landscape they walk through.”
The painting remains one of Gainsborough’s most famous works. Alive from 1727 to 1788, he was the leading portrait artist of his day – despite his preference for painting landscapes of natural settings.
Art historian Michael Rosenthal once described him as “one of the most technically proficient and most experimental artists of his time”.
‘The Morning Walk’ also gained a wider audience more recently, when it formed part of the backdrop to a meeting between James Bond and Q in the film Skyfall.