National Gallery
A man is to appear in court after being charged with damaging a portrait at the National Gallery in central LondonReuters

A man is due in court on Monday (20 March) charged with criminal damage after The Morning Walk – a portrait by Thomas Gainsborough – was slashed.

Keith Gregory, 63, of no fixed abode, is accused of damaging the painting – described by former owner Lord Rothschild as a "supreme masterpiece" – at the National Gallery on Saturday afternoon with reports claiming her used a screwdriver.

Police were called to the central London gallery at approximately 2.10pm to reports of a painting damaged at the Trafalgar Square tourist attraction.

There, Gregory was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and taken to a central London police station. He was charged on Sunday before being remanded to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court the next day.

Thomas Gainsborough The Morning Walk
Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Mr and Mrs William Hallett – The Morning WalkThomas Gainsborough

Described by the National Portrait Gallery as portraying "an elegant young couple strolling through a woodland landscape, an attentive dog at the lady's heel," Gainsborough's The Morning Walk depicts Mr and Mrs William Hallett at around the time of their marriage.

It was sold to the gallery by Lord Rothschild in 1954, a move later chided by his son, Jacob.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Lord [Jacob] Rothschild said: "My father, much to my rage, sold the supreme masterpiece The Morning Walk to the National Gallery," he told the newspaper.

The incident will stirs memories of when Fathers4Justice campaigner Tim Haries defaced a portrait of the Queen in Westminster Abbey in 2014.

He used spray paint to damage the painting, which he marked to highlight the "social justice issue of our time".

He was jailed for six months.