English painter Joseph Mallord William (JMW) Turner was recently unveiled by the Bank of England as the first fine artist to be featured on a U.K. banknote.
The note depicts a self-portrait by the influential 18th-century painter alongside one of his most significant pieces, The Fighting Temeraire, which is a tribute to the ship that helped Admiral Lord Nelson earn a victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The design also features the words “Light is therefore colour”, a quote by Turner about his own artistic techniques made at an 1818 lecture.
He eventually became known as the “painter of light,” owing to an incredible gift for representing nature’s subtle colour shifts.
Wait! They’re putting Turner, a PAINTER, on a British banknote now? Ye gods, where does it all stop? Next they’ll be proposing … women!
— Guy Gavriel Kay (@guygavrielkay) April 23, 2016
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the honour is an example of Turner’s legacy to U.K. society, adding he’s “perhaps the single most influential British artist of all time.”
The new £20 note, which was unveiled at the Turner Contemporary Gallery, is expected to enter circulation in 2020.