JMW Turner Will Grace England’s New £20 Notes

Turner is the first artist to be featured on a British banknote.

The banknote featuring JMW Turner.Photo: Courtesy Bank of England.
The banknote featuring JMW Turner.
Photo: Courtesy Bank of England.

The Bank of England has announced that a self-portrait of Joseph Mallord William Turner as a young man will grace the new £20 notes.

The new design, which will enter circulation in 2020, will also feature Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire (1839) in the background.

Last year, the Bank of England announced that, for the first time, it would feature a visual artist in its new £20 note. Turner was selected after a public nomination period that took place between May and July 2015, followed by a deliberation by the Banknote Character Advisory Committee.

This new selection process marked the first occasion in which the public had a say in such matters. The final shortlist, handpicked from a total of 590 artists proposed by the public, also featured Charlie Chaplin, Barbara Hepworth, William Hogarth, and the potter Josiah Wedgwood.

The final decision was announced last Friday by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, and the artist Tracey Emin at Turner Contemporary, a museum in Margate sited on what was formerly Turner’s lodging house in the seaside town.

“It’s so amazing that an artist has been chosen for the £20 note and an artist who was a wild maverick,” Emin, who was raised in Margate, said during the presentation. “It’s wonderful that Britain’s creative side is being honored in this way, and of course I am especially happy because it is Turner and he loved Margate.”

“The decision to celebrate JMW Turner, one of the greatest technical pioneers in the history of British art, is extraordinary, not least because it has proven by a public vote that Turner is the nation’s favourite artist,” Victoria Pomery, director of Turner Contemporary, said.

“Brilliantly, it is an official acknowledgment of the immense historical value of the visual arts to the UK. But it is also a stark reminder that we must place increasing value on our future as a nation of creative minds. We must invest to support the next great artists and innovators,” she added.

JMW Turner, Self-Portrait (c. 1799).<br>Photo: Courtesy Tate.

JMW Turner, Self-Portrait (c. 1799).
Photo: Courtesy Tate.

Turner’s self-portrait, painted in 1799, when he was 24 years old, is part of Tate Britain’s collection, and it is currently displayed in the museum’s Clore Gallery.

“As the home of Turner, we at Tate Britain are extremely pleased that the artist is the new face of the £20 banknote,” Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, said in a statement.

“We hope that will encourage visitors to see his self-portrait and other outstanding paintings in person in our Clore Gallery. Turner’s popularity is unrivalled—he was voted the nation’s favorite artist last year—and now everyone can celebrate Turner’s great contribution to art on a daily basis.”

Meawhile, The Fighting Temeraire part of the collection at London’s National Gallery, where it is a favorite with museum-goers.

“Every time you pull out a £20-pound note from your pocket, purse or cash machine, you will be reminded of the nation’s best-loved picture in the National Gallery and a masterpiece by one of Britain’s greatest painters,” Gabriele Finaldi, director National Gallery, said in a statement.

You can find more information about the selection process and the selection of Turner in the video below:


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