By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …….
The Bank of England announced it will release a new £20 banknote featuring artist J.M.W. Turner in 2020. The new £20 pound note will be printed on polymer, as will the next series of £5 and £10 British banknotes. The selection of J.M.W. Turner to appear on the £20 British banknote represents a new method of choosing British banknote designs. The Bank of England recently elected to use a public nomination process that solicits Britons to choose who they want to see on the nation’s paper currency, with the main criteria being nominees must represent “inclusivity and diversity” and not be “divisive” figures.
“Turner is perhaps the single most influential British artist of all time,” said Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. “His work was transformative, bridging the classical and modern worlds. His influence spanned his lifetime and is still apparent today,” Carney continued.
“Turner bequeathed this painting to the nation, an example of his important contribution to British society.”
Turner won a contest decided upon by 30,000 people who nominated 590 eligible artists between May and June 2015, beating out other notables from the arts including Beryl Cook, Francis Bacon, William Blake, and Branwell Bronte.
So just who was the famed cultural icon whose likeness has now won a place on the British £20 banknote?
Joseph Mallord William Turner was a man of intrigue and mystique, whose very date of birth remains unknown. Turner said he was born on April 23, 1775, though there’s no proof. What is known is he was born in London, England, and was baptized on May 14, 1775. When Turner was 10 years old, he was sent to live with a maternal uncle; the young Turner’s mother suffered from mental illness.
Turner’s artistic ability was vividly expressed early in his youth. Some simple colorings he created during his youth in the mid-1780s include impressive recreations of Henry Boswell’s Picturesque View of the Antiquities of England and Wales (1786). As a child, he also produced original drawings that hinted at the work he would create later in his life. By the end of the 1780s, Turner’s work was exhibited in his father’s barbershop. Several pieces sold for a few shillings each.
As Turner entered adolescence, his talent was largely expressed through architectural renderings. The young man worked for several architects in his early teen years, including notable individuals such as Thomas Hardwick, Joseph Bonomi the Elder, and James Wyatt. At the age of 14, Turner enrolled in the Royal Academy of the Art and was accepted a year later in 1790. While the young artist was primarily interested in architectural drawings, he was encouraged to further hone his painting skills.
Turner’s tenure at the academy helped the maturing artist delve into numerous artistic disciplines, but his painting skills became his prime focus. In 1796, he exhibited Fisherman at Sea, an oil painting that received critical acclaim and helped establish Turner as an oil painter and maritime artist. Turner traveled throughout Europe during the early 1800s and during that period received many watercolor commissions. One such piece, Hannibal Crossing the Alps, was inspired during a storm Turner witnessed over a cliff known as The Chevin near a town called Otley in West Yorkshire, England. His later works include masterpieces such as Crossing the Brook (1815), The Battle of Trafalgar (1822), The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835), and Sunrise with Sea Monsters (c. 1845).
Turner never married, but he had relationships with two widows and is thought to have fathered two daughters with his first lover, a woman named Sarah Danby, in 1801 and 1811. With the death of his father in 1829, Turner experienced a period of deep depression. Turner became an increasingly eccentric figure as he grew older, and was known as a habitual user of snuff. He died in the home of his second lover, Sophia Caroline Booth, on December 19, 1851. His last words were noted as “The Sun is God.” He is buried alongside 18th-century painter Sir Joshua Reynolds in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Though Turner was financially independent and bequeathed funds to help his fellow artists, his paintings skyrocketed in both value and in recognition posthumously, as is often the case with notable artists’ works. Turner’s paintings regularly sell for millions, including his final painting of Rome, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, which sold for $44.9 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2010.