J.M.W. Turner Turns Up at His House on the New £20 Note Ahead of National Launch

Turner’s House in Twickenham has had an extraordinary start to 2020.

First it opened an exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s original works, having as a very special guest of honour Sir David Attenborough. Then, just a few weeks later, it hosted a private preview of the new £20 notes, hot off the presses, and two weeks prior to their launch to the public.

Chief Cashier, Sarah John and bank note designer, Debbie Marriott, showcased the polymer note’s innovative design, new security features and production process in Sandycoombe Road to an invited audience of the house’s supporters.

The new notes are the first to feature a character chosen in consultation with the public, who recognised J.M.W. Turner’s contribution to the visual arts and enduring influence. The design features his self-portrait, signature, The Fighting Temeraire; and his quote “Light is therefore colour” from an 1818 lecture by Turner, made when he would have been living in his self- designed house in St Margaret’s. The notes are more complex, secure and colourful than previous notes, making them more like works of art in themselves – a fitting legacy for the artist and successful businessman, famed for his use of light, shade, colour and tone.

Sarah John, who is responsible for circulation and security, explained that the new polymer £20 is the most secure Bank of England banknote yet. Two windows and a two-colour foil have been incorporated making it difficult to counterfeit. Sarah joked, that for her mum, the most exciting new feature is her daughter’s signature on it in her role as Chief Cashier for the Bank of England.

“The £20 may be our third polymer banknote, but in some ways, it’s the biggest change to date, as the £20 note accounts for 50% of notes in circulation – that’s

£40 billion worth!” said Sarah.

That’s enough notes to circle the world seven times!

Designer, Debbie Marriott, overlooked by a portrait of J.M.W. Turner in his sitting room, explained the complex design process which took four years. One challenge was “copying the work of one of history’s greatest artists” and converting an oil work to something suitable for a banknote press.

“All this had to be done on computer – taking Turner’s art into the 21st century!”

Turner’s House Trust have been working with the Bank of England to support the issue of the new note this year by organising a programme of events throughout 2020.

Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR is open Wednesday to Sunday. turnershouse.org.

Written by Lucinda MacPherson

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