Today, Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, announced that J.M.W. Turner will appear on the next £20 banknote due to be issued by 2020. At the announcement at Turner Contemporary in Margate, the Governor revealed the image of Turner that will be used on the note.
It was the first time the Bank has asked the public as to who should appear on a specific banknote. An overwhelming 29,701 nominations were received from the public, after the bank announced it wanted to celebrate an artist on the note.
Approximately 600 eligible visual artists were considered for the honour – about a fifth of whom are women, before the English Romantic artist was chosen.
The note, is to be made of polymer and will eventually replace the current £20 note featuring the economist Adam Smith.
The choice means all but one Bank of England banknote character will be men.
Of the five characters on banknotes by 2020, other than the Queen only Jane Austen – appearing on the £10 note from 2017 – is a woman.
The men who will feature by 2020 are Sir Winston Churchill on the £5 note who will replace campaigner Elizabeth Fry from September, Turner on the £20 note, and Matthew Boulton and James Watt remain on the £50 note.
Joseph Mallord William Turner, or JMW Turner (1775 – 1851), is known as “the painter of light” and described by artist Tracey Emin as a “wild maverick”.
The banknote features Turner’s self-portrait, from 1799, currently on display in the Tate Britain, and one of his most eminent paintings – The Fighting Temeraire – which can be seen in the National Gallery. In 2005, the painting – a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 – was voted Britain’s greatest painting in a poll organised by the BBC.
The quote on the banknote – “Light is therefore colour” – comes from an 1818 lecture by Turner at the Royal Academy, where he first exhibited at the age of 15. His signature is from his will in which he bequeathed his work to the nation.
The unveiling was held at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Kent. It was in the town that the London-born Turner, the son of a barber and wig maker, loved and more than 100 of his works were inspired by the East Kent coast.
The new £20 note will be the third Bank of England banknote to be made from polymer, following the new £5 note and new £10 note.
The theory is that the plastic notes will be more sturdy, such as surviving a spin in the washing machine, and be more resistant to counterfeiting.
Only the £50 note will remain a paper Bank of England banknote.