New £20 note featuring JMW Turner revealed by the Bank of England

Sean Farrell
Photograph: Bank of England/PA

The governor of the Bank of England has unveiled the new £20 polymer banknote featuring the artist JMW Turner as the Bank continues its switch away from paper money.

Mark Carney revealed the note’s design at Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, which is named after the landscape painter. Turner, the first artist to feature on a British banknote, went to school in Margate and many of his paintings were of the local seascapes.

The £20 note follows the Bank’s launch of polymer £5 and £10 noteswhich went into circulation in September 2016 and September 2017. The Bank is opting for polymer over traditional paper notes because it is cleaner, longer-lasting and harder to forge.

The Bank said the latest note was its most secure yet with two windows and a two-colour foil making it very difficult to counterfeit. It will enter circulation on 20 February alongside existing paper £20 notes.

The new polymer notes feature images of historic British figures. The £20 Turner follows the introduction of the Winston Churchill £5 and the Jane Austen £10. A £50 note featuring Alan Turing, the second world war codebreaker, will follow in 2021.

Carney said: “Our banknotes celebrate the UK’s heritage, salute its culture, and testify to the achievements of its most notable individuals. Turner’s contribution to art extends well beyond his favourite stretch of shoreline.

“Turner’s painting was transformative, his influence spanned lifetimes, and his legacy endures today. The new £20 note celebrates Turner, his art and his legacy in all their radiant, colourful, evocative glory.”

The note features Turner’s 1799 self-portrait, which hangs in Tate Britain, as well as one of Turner’s most recognisable works, The Fighting Temeraire – a tribute to the ship which played a big part in Nelson’s victory at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The £20 note has a quote from Turner, “light is therefore colour”, and his signature taken from his will, which bequeathed many of his works to the nation.

Turner was selected in 2016 from a longlist of 590 painters, sculptors, fashion designers, photographers, film-makers and actors put forward by 30,000 members of the public. The list was whittled down to five and Turner was chosen by the Bank’s banknote character advisory committee.

The new £20 note will be the first to feature the signature of Sarah John, the Bank’s chief cashier. She said: “The new £20 is an important part of our commitment to providing banknotes that people can use with confidence. With the £20 being our most common this marks a big step forward in our fight against counterfeiting.”