The new polymer twenty pounds note is out there. With it Joseph Mallord William Turner came into circulation.
The truth is, dear Will Turner has never been out of circulation. Most Brits consider him the greatest British painter of all time. He is also the author of The Fighting Temeraire, voted the most favourite painting in this country.
The Sun is God
Turner art was experimental as hell in his time and remains as such even now. Looking at his paintings is like looking directly at blinding, dazzling sun.
He once said ‘light is therefore colour’. And really the light had its place in his painting palette just beside other colours. ‘The Sun is God’ that is another quote from the artist.
Paint and spit
Well, the light is a kind of intangible asset. But in his working environment he also used to engage totally different ‘resources’. Turner did not hesitate to smear the paintings with tobacco juice, beer or even his own saliva!
Obviously, he did not do it to dismay the public or to demean his own creations like contemporary artists sometimes do. They were the materials, means to an end. Like oil, watercolour or charcoal.
Two works on the note
Coming back to the new £20 note. The artwork used is artist’s self-portrait painted around 1799 and currently on display at Tate Britain. Portraits were not his first choice of genre and he is not known because of them.
In the background is mentioned already The Fighting Temeraire. It is precisely the dramatic marine landscapes that have made artist’s name.
Light from everywhere
Turner often combined natural light with other sources such as… fire blaze. It doesn’t seem strange at all that he took the huge fire of parliament in 1834 as an artistic opportunity. His paintings of the inferno are absolutely amazing.
He also beautifully executed moonlight. The perfect example is Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835 with additional glow from burning ships.
Turner art prints
Will Turner is wild and maverick, as contemporary artist Tracey Amin said during the event of unveiling the new £20 bank note. Now his image is multiplied on two billion notes.
Hopefully, Turner art will break through to our homes as well. Art prints of his masterpieces could enrich traditional British interiors.