New Turner Twenty Pound Note Previewed at Turnerís House

Ahead of national launch of new note on February 20th

Turner and his twenty pound note
LtR Debbie Marriott BoE, Michael Deriaz, Vice Chair Turner's House, Sarah John BoE pose with giant £20 ahead of launch on Feb 20


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Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR

Open Wednesday-Sunday: 12–1pm: Self-guided visits, and 1-4pm: Guided Tours

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Hot off the Bank of England’s presses, two brand new £20 notes featuring J.M.W. Turner arrived at Turner’s House in Twickenham on February 4th ahead of their national release on February 20th. 

Chief Cashier, Sarah John, and bank note designer, Debbie Marriott, showcased the polymer note’s innovative design, new security features and production process in the house which Turner designed for himself.

The new note is ground-breaking in many ways including being 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:

  • J.M.W. Turner’s self-portrait, painted c. 1799 and currently on display in Tate Britain.
  • Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire; voted Britain’s greatest painting in a BBC poll.
  • Turner’s signature from his Will, the document with which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation.
  • 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.

New note on display

Sarah John, who is responsible 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 by cutting edge technology, 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, “It has been a huge printing job, with printing presses running for 14 months to ensure that we had adequate launch stocks.”

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 four year design process. Once challenge was “copying the work of one of history’s greatest artists” and converting an oil work to something suitable for a banknote press.

Banknote designs are created using a series of fine lines and specific colours similar to traditional engraving, which is very different to the subtle blending of colours used in oil work.

“We tried to capture the painterly effects of the oil paint using brush strokes especially in the hair, the jacket and scarf using a linear effect whilst focusing on the form, but there are some slight differences if you compare the banknote engraving to the oil painting. For example, we used a traditional banknote engraving approach for Turner’s face using smaller marks within the portrait design to produce a neater, tighter finish.”

“When you get your hands on the note, you will be able to see the contrast of these two finishes around his eye.”

They also had the challenge of capturing The Fighting Temeraire in a note which has historically been associated only with the colour purple.

“We needed to incorporate the purple which is synonymous with the £20 and we did this predominantly within the background image and portrayed the ship in light purple and blue hues to give a ghostly effect as in the painting. We used bright, vivid red, orange and yellows hues to depict the sun setting behind Turner’s shoulder to really bring the art to life.”

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

The printing of the new £20 coincided with the introduction of new, advanced printing presses which allowed the bank to incorporate more colours, resulting in the most colourful note yet, fitting for a note which features the artist famous for his quote “Light is therefore colour”.

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. These include their first  exhibition of Turner’s original work; a Turner Day on June 11th, featuring talks on his life and work, including the painting The Fighting Temeraire; family printmaking workshops creating personalised banknotes, and studying Turner’s self-portrait – the image that will appear on the £20 note.

Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR is open Wednesday-Sunday: 12–1pm for self-guided and 1-4pm; Guided Tour Social Media Twitter: @TurnersHouse  Facebook Instagram.



February 12, 2020

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