Paper Money

Bank of England unveils £20 note featuring Turner

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney unveiled the design of the new £20 note featuring the artist J.M.W. Turner Oct. 10. The note will be issued on Feb. 20, 2020. The concept design, revealed in April 2016, studiously avoided disclosing any of the note’s security features, any view of its full width, or anything at all about the face with Queen Elizabeth’s portrait.

Now that the day of issue is near, bank officials explain the polymer note has sophisticated security features that make it, they say, the most secure Bank of England note yet. For the first time, it incorporates two windows and a two-color foil, very difficult to counterfeit, which is an especially important consideration given this is Britain’s most popular denomination.

Governor Carney made his announcement at the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate. He said of the note, “Our banknotes celebrate the UK’s heritage, salute its culture, and testify to the achievements of its most notable individuals. ... Turner’s contribution to art extends well beyond his favorite stretch of shoreline. Turner’s painting was transformative, his influence spanned lifetimes, and his legacy endures today. The new £20 note celebrates Turner, his art and his legacy in all their radiant, colorful, evocative glory.”

The bank disclosed several features in its press announcement of the predominantly purple note:

➤ A large see-through window with blue and gold foil on the obverse depicting Margate lighthouse and Turner Contemporary, an art gallery in Margate, Kent, England. The foil is silver in color on the back. The shape of the large window is based on the shape of the fountains in Trafalgar Square.

➤ A smaller see-through window in the bottom corner of the note is inspired by Tintern Abbey. 

➤ J.M.W. Turner’s self-portrait, painted around 1799 and now on display in the Tate Britain art museum.

➤ One of Turner’s most important paintings, The Fighting Temeraire, a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire, which played a distinguished role in Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The painting, now on display in the National Gallery, was voted the nation’s favorite painting in a 2005 poll.

➤ A metallic hologram that changes between the words “Twenty” and “Pounds” when the note is tilted.

➤ The queen’s portrait in a see-through window with “£20 Bank of England” printed twice around the edge.

➤ A silver foil patch with a 3D image of the coronation crown.

➤ A purple foil patch containing the letter “T” and based on the staircase at the Tate Britain.

➤ A quote, “Light is therefore colour,” from an 1818 lecture by Turner referring to the innovative use of light, shade, color and tone in his pictures.

➤ Turner’s signature from his will, the document bequeathing many of his paintings to the nation.

The note has other features that officials are not publicizing.

This note, like the polymer £10 note, has also a tactile feature to help those whose vision is impaired.

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