The design for Britain’s next £20 banknote, which will become available from 20 February next year, reproduces the artist JMW Turner’s self portrait and, behind it, of one his most famous works, The Fighting Temeraire, painted in 1838. This particularly interests me because Vic Keegan recently wrote about the painting in a piece for On London and also because a few weeks ago I took a wander along the stretch of the south bank of the Thames that seems to have provided the painter with his vantage point for capturing or imagining the scene he depicted – the end of a breaker’s yard in Rotherhithe where the ship the Temeraire, famous for its role in the Battle of Trafalgar, was dismantled.
Turner was born in Covent Garden and took inspiration from the Thames throughout his long and phenomenal career. A TV documentary, presented by art critic Matthew Collings and first broadcast in 2012, explored his relationship with the river. The forthcoming new banknote provides a handy excuse to post below the final part of that programme, which examines The Fighting Temeraire and other dramatic riverside scenes captured by Turner, which showcase both his artistic skills and also his grasp of the moods of his time. The clip is 14 minutes long.
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