National Gallery's iconic work featured on new Bank of England £20 note

22 April 2016

We are delighted that the iconic and much-loved work from our collection, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up by Joseph Mallord William Turner, will feature on the Bank of England’s new £20 bank note.

The announcement and unveiling of the design was made this afternoon by the Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, during a ceremony held at Turner Contemporary in Margate.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838, Oil on canvas, 90.7 x 121.6 cm, Turner Bequest, 1856.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up', 1838, Oil on canvas, 90.7 x 121.6 cm, Turner Bequest, 1856.

The image on the new note is based on the famous painting of HMS Temeraire, a veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar and saviour of Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, being towed to its final resting place by a steam tug. Turner, who called the painting his ‘Darling’, couldn’t bring himself to sell it, but left it instead to the nation upon his death. 

The work has long been a favourite of our visitors and was voted the ‘Greatest Painting in Britain’ in a national poll conducted by BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme in 2005. 'The Fighting Temeraire' was also the focal point of a scene from the 2012 James Bond film, 'Skyfall', where Daniel Craig’s 007 meets his new quartermaster Q (Ben Wishaw) in front of the painting on a visit to the Gallery.

The new £20 note will also feature a self-portrait of Turner (from Tate Britain), his signature, and a quote, “Light is therefore colour.” Deputy Director and Curator of British painting at the National Gallery, Dr Susan Foister, assisted the Bank of England in finding the source of this quote and also in locating his signature.

The new bank note will enter circulation in 2020.

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, said:

“Every time you pull out a £20 note from your pocket, purse or cash machine, you will be reminded of the nation’s best-loved picture in the National Gallery and a masterpiece by one of Britain’s greatest painters.”

You can see The Fighting Temeraire in Room 34.