Press Release

Tate Britain displays new Turner £20 alongside artist's self-portrait

Tate Britain displays new Turner £20 alongside artist's self-portrait

Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, and Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England with JMW Turner's Self Portrait c.1799

Today, the Bank of England launched the new £20 note entering circulation at Tate Britain, the home of JMW Turner. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, joined Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, to celebrate Turner in front of the artist’s renowned self-portrait which is featured on the new note. The Bank of England has gifted one of the first notes to be printed to Tate with the date of the portrait included in the serial number. The note is now on display alongside Turner’s self-portrait.

JMW Turner was the outstanding British artist of the early 19th century and is widely regarded as the greatest British painter. Tate Britain houses the world’s largest collection of Turner’s work. It is home to the Turner Bequest, comprising 300 oil paintings and many thousands of sketches and watercolours.

The new £20 note features Turner’s self-portrait from 1799 when Turner was twenty-four years old. It was possibly intended to mark an important moment in his career, his election as an Associate of the Royal Academy. Despite his relative youth, Turner had already made a name for himself as an original, accomplished painter with the technical abilities of someone much more mature. He had been described in the newspapers as an artist who ‘seems thoroughly to understand the mode of adjusting and applying his various materials’ and ‘their effect in oil or on paper is equally sublime’.

Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain, said: ‘We are thrilled that Turner is featured on the new £20 banknote. As one of Britain’s greatest artists – perhaps even the greatest - Turner is a key figure in the history of art. He was certainly a radical artist in his time and he continues to inspire today. At Tate Britain, we are committed to championing his legacy in our displays and exhibitions of his work as well as in celebrating today’s artists with the Turner Prize, named in Turner’s honour as a figure who was innovative and controversial in his own day.’

The note also features the National Gallery’s Fighting Temeraire which will be on loan to Tate Britain this autumn for Turner’s Modern World (28 October 2020 – 7 March 2021). Turner lived and worked at the peak of the industrial revolution. Steam replaced sail; machine-power replaced manpower; political and social reforms transformed society. While many artists ignored these advances, this landmark exhibition will explore how Turner faced up to these new challenges and updated the language of art to produce revelatory interpretations of modern subjects.