Turner’s House in Twickenham celebrated the launch of the new £20 note today with an morning of talks on the design.
Bank of England’s chief cashier Sarah John and banknote designer Debbie Marriott spoke to guests from local businesses ahead of the introduction of the polymer note, which features J.M.W. Turner, on February 20.
House director Ricky Pound said: “We’re over the moon it’s happened in this particular year.
“It’s very special. It’s one of the most complex but colourful notes they have done.
“There’s a lot of firsts with this note. It’s the first time that a note has had a self-portrait on it and it’s the first time that it’s had someone from the visual arts.
“Colour was important to Turner. He had experimented with different ways of creating colour on his paintings all his life, which other people weren’t doing. He was an eccentric.”
Public awareness of Romantic painter’s life and works has been heightened this year, with Sir David Attenborough opening an exhibition of five unfinished Thames paintings at the museum in January.
Turner was an early investor in the Bank of England, as well as friends with Sir John Soane, who was architect and surveyor to the Bank of England for 45 years.
The new note follows in the family style of the £5 note featuring Winston Churchill introduced in 2016 and the Jane Austen £10 note issued the following year.
However, a change in the making process has allowed extra use of colour, which fits nicely with ‘Light is therefore colour’, a Turner quote from an 1818 lecture which features on the note.
The self-portrait, painted circa 1799, shows a young Mr Turner looking straight ahead, and the bank’s design team put significant work into details on his hair, scarf and jacket.
He is standing in front of a representation of ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, which was voted the nation’s favourite painting in a 2005 BBC poll.
The Banknote Advisory Committee also nominated filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, sculptor Barbara Hepworth, painter William Hogarth, and designer Josiah Wedgwood for the honour, but Turner was chosen and announced in early 2016.
The finished design comes after four years of design work, and it has been rolling off printing presses for 14 months in a bid to ensure enough of them are available for the roll-out later this month.
It is the first new note to feature Ms John’s signature in the corner after she was appointed as chief cashier in 2018.
Twenty-pound notes make up over 50% of the banknotes in circulation, accounting for over two billion notes.
The previous £20 note, introduced in 2007, featured economist Adam Smith.
Mr Turner, who had a lifelong passion in architecture, designed and built Sandycombe Lodge before he lived in it from 1814 to 1826.
The building is currently hosting a sold-out exhibition of five of his unfinished paintings of the Thames, produced on recycled mahogany, which are usually held in the Tate’s collection.