Nineteenth century English painter J.M.W. Turner is the Bank of
England’s selection as the subject of the back of the £20 bank note
scheduled for release in 2020.
The bank’s April 22 statement said that Turner prevailed over a
field of 590 names nominated in 29,701 public submissions. It is the
first time the Bank of England used a system set up two years ago in
which a Banknote Character Advisory Committee oversaw the selection
process. First it determined that the subject would represent the
visual arts. Then a two-month nomination period resulted in the list
of candidates. The committee conducted focus groups and came up with a
short list of five that it gave to the bank’s governor, who made the decision.
A concept note provided by the bank includes the following features:
Turner’s self-portrait, painted circa 1799 and currently on display in
the Tate Britain museum in London; Turner’s painting The Fighting
Temeraire, a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire that played a vital
role in Adm. Horatio Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in
1805 and which was voted Britain’s greatest painting in a 2005 BBC
poll; a quote, “Light is therefore colour,” from an 1818 lecture by
Turner referring to his innovative use of light, shade, color and tone
in his paintings; and Turner’s signature from his will, in which he
gave many of his paintings, including The Fighting Temeraire, to the
nation. The final design and its security features will be revealed at
a later date.
The £20 bank note will be the third denomination printed on polymer.
The £5 note will be issued in September and the £10 note in 2017.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said that Turner “is perhaps
the single most influential British artist of all time.” He was known
as “the painter of light” because of his ability to convey the
subtlest shifts in color and atmosphere, especially in his landscapes
and seascapes. His later works are characterized by innovation in
their focus on light and atmosphere instead of their subject. He had
an influence on the French Impressionists that the bank says has
“extended across continents and through time to touch the artists of
the modern period.”
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