J.M.W. Turner to appear on the next £20 banknote

We have announced that artist Turner will appear on the new £20 note.
Published on 22 April 2016

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.

Concept image of the polymer twenty pound note

The selection of Turner is the first time the Bank of England has used the more open and transparent character selection process announced in December 2013. The process began in early 2015 with the formation of the Banknote Character Advisory Committee which as its first act selected the visual arts field. This was followed by a two month nomination period in summer 2015 during which members of the public could suggest a figure from the visual arts. The Bank received 29,701 nominations covering 590 eligible characters. The Committee, with input from public focus groups, then produced a shortlist which it discussed in detail with the Governor who made the final decision.

Commenting on the decision, the Governor said: “I am delighted to announce that J.M.W. Turner has been chosen to appear on the next £20 note. Turner is perhaps the single most influential British artist of all time. His work was transformative, bridging the classical and modern worlds. His influence spanned his lifetime and is still apparent today. Turner bequeathed this painting to the nation, an example of his important contribution to British society.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who got involved in the process and that sent us their suggestions for visual artists to celebrate. The range and breadth of these nominations is testament to the UK’s achievements in the arts and the public’s passion for it. The Banknote Character Advisory Committee did an outstanding job of working through these nominations. Their help in reaching today’s decision was invaluable.”

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

The new £20 note will enter circulation by 2020 and as with the next £5 and £10 notes will be printed on polymer. The new polymer £5 note will be unveiled at Blenheim Palace on 2 June 2016 and enter circulation in September. 

As shown in the concept image, the design on the reverse of the note will include:

  • J.M.W. Turner’s self-portrait, painted c. 1799 and currently on display in the Tate Britain.
  • One of Turner’s most eminent paintings The Fighting Temeraire; a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire which played a distinguished role in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
  • The quote - “Light is therefore colour” from an 1818 lecture by Turner referring to his innovative use of light, shade, colour and tone in his pictures.
  • Turner’s signature from his Will, the document with which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation.

The full design of the note and its security features will be unveiled closer to it entering circulation. 

PDF Press release

PDF£20 note character selection announcement - speech by Mark Carney

  • Alice Rawsthorn, Design journalist and author: One of the best things about the selection process was that we were absolutely spoilt for choice.

    Prof Sir David Cannadine, Author and Professor of History at Princeton University: It was very impressive to see the astonishing range of different forms of creative endeavour, from film and fashion at one end, to architecture and portraiture and painting at the other end.

    John Akomfrah, Artist and filmmaker: The numbers of people nominated, I think in the end it was like 519 or something like that, so it's an extraordinary figure.

    Ben Broadbent, Deputy Governor, Bank of England: I was enormously impressed by the range of characters and I must confess, I was relatively ignorant about the history of visual arts in this country, certainly far less expert than the other people we had on committee.

    Victoria Cleland, Chief Cashier, Bank of England: There were lots of very well-known names but also I discovered artists I never heard of, and their great contribution, for example Jane Drew, Ronald Moody. So the real thing that surprised me was the sheer breadth of talent.

    Baroness Lola Young, Cross-bench peer, House of Lords: At the beginning especially, we had a great deal of difficulty in cutting this massive list right down.

    Sandy Nairne, Historian and Former Director, National Portrait Gallery:The fact that so many artists could have been there, there was such a great choice and in a sense it was impossible.

    Andrew Graham-Dixon, Art Critic, journalist and TV presenter: Really brought it home to me again once more, just how vital and fascinating the British art tradition has been.

    Alice Rawsthorn, Design journalist and author: One I thought was particularly interesting was Josiah Wedgwood, I mean he really was the Steve Jobs of the 18th century but he came from a very humble background, trained as an apprentice Potter, he was a brilliant designer but also an incredible entrepreneur an innovator.

    Sandy Nairne, Historian and Former Director, National Portrait Gallery: Dame Barbara Hepworth whose self-portrait from 1950 is just here behind me, was a really great figure in British twentieth-century art. She was an extraordinary artist and made much of her life down in Cornwall, but although it was based in Cornwall, her work spread around the world.

    Baroness Lola Young, Cross-bench peer, House of Lords: I was absolutely delighted to see that there were a number of film makers on the list, that people had chosen and one of them was Alfred Hitchcock. But what was really interesting to me was the partnership that he had with Alma Reville, who became his wife. Their contribution to the cinematic art is enormous.

    John Akomfrah, Artist and filmmaker: I thought Chaplin was just one of those people who just struck me as interesting, but I think in the hands of Chaplin cinema became something that just about every corner of the globe knew something about. You mention Charlie Chaplin, people know who you’re talking about. 

    Prof Sir David Cannadine, Author and Professor of History at Princeton University: One of the people I was particularly interested in was William Hogarth, the great 18th century painter, satirist, engraver - the creator in a sense of modern day soap opera, and he was a figure of extraordinary importance and resonance, who connected with many aspects of 18th century British life.

    Baroness Lola Young, Cross-bench peer, House of Lords: I’m really happy with the outcome, I mean some people might think that when they just come into the end of the process they'll see the name JMW Turner and think oh well that was a foregone conclusion, but actually it wasn't.

    Andrew Graham-Dixon, Art Critic, journalist and TV presenter: I think Turner is a great choice for so many reasons, he is, I think without doubt the single most original British artist of all time - the one who's had the greatest influence on the art of Europe and indeed the world. His breakthroughs, his obsession that the depiction of light was a huge catalyst for that minor French movement known as Impressionism.

    Victoria Cleland, Chief Cashier, Bank of England: Turner's an artist who's really stood the test of time, he was respected by his peers and he is still loved by the public today.

    Baroness Lola Young, Cross-bench peer, House of Lords: This man and his contribution to visual culture as a whole, not just in painting was something really quite special.

    Ben Broadbent, Deputy Governor, Bank of England: I think he must be considered a match for anyone who's appeared on a British banknote.

    Andrew Graham-Dixon, Art Critic, journalist and TV presenter: This is very much the choice of somebody who made it, you know from humble origins.

    Sandy Nairne, Historian and Former Director, National Portrait Gallery: He’s one of the great, all-time wonderful artists, one of the great inspiring creative figures.

    Alice Rawsthorn, Design journalist and author: He's one of the most remarkable artists that Britain or any other country has produced.

    Prof Sir David Cannadine, Author and Professor of History at Princeton University: Perhaps a transcendent genius.

    John Akomfrah, Artist and filmmaker: And I think Turner is as good as it gets for British artists.

    Andrew Graham-Dixon, Art Critic, journalist and TV presenter: He is to British art what Darwin is to British science, what Churchill is to British politics. 

Give your feedback

Was this page useful?
Yes
No
Add your details...