Morning Coffee-Coffee-Cup-Morning-Coffee-JGlover-FineArt

Morning Coffee VII – The £20 Masterpiece

Good Morning!

After a few weeks without one, welcome to this week’s Morning Coffee; get your favourite blend of pick-me-up ready and join me on a short journey as we take a look at the new £20 note design, which in my opinion is a thing of beauty and a well needed change for the better.

I’ll also briefly pick apart the subject matter of the design, there are two stunning paintings to analyse as well as an inspirational quote to consider.

Before going into the details let’s take a look at the note design itself, proudly featuring my favourite landscape artist of them all, JMW Turner.

Art-Artist-JMW Turner-New-Twenty-Pound-Note-Design-History-Money-Landscape

The information regarding this incredible new design, as written on the Bank of England’s website is as follows –

Th Turner note will be a £20 note printed on polymer and will be issued by 2020. The reverse of the note will include:

  • J.M.W. Turner’s self-portrait, painted c. 1799 and currently on display in the Tate Britain.
  • One of Turner’s most eminent paintings The Fighting Temeraire; a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire which played a distinguished role in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
  • The quote – “Light is therefore colour” from an 1818 lecture by Turner referring to his innovative use of light, shade, colour and tone in his pictures.
  • Turner’s signature from his will, the document with which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation.

This is a truly exciting new design for the £20 note, in general I care little for money as far as the design aspects go, more interested in the value and what can be purchased or paid with it; this one however, I will find very hard to part with and as sad as it may seem, I’ll certainly be framing one.

After all, £20 is not much to part with for a masterpiece.

The Artwork

JMW Turner-Turner-Mr Turner-Self-Portrait-Painting-Art-Artist-History-Oil Painting-Oil-Portrait
JMW Turner – Self Portrait – c. 1799

This self-portrait shows a young and ambitious Joseph Mallord William Turner, having already made an impressive name for himself in the art world, it is believed that he created this painting to mark an accomplishment in his career, such as being elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy. Despite being relatively young in years, Turner was respected and appreciated as an original artist in his own right and his work was highly popular. 

This was a very appropriate image to use for the Turner £20 note, even more so that it was a self-portrait and it now feels like we get two of Turner’s works for the price of one.

Going slightly off topic here, I went and saw the Late Turner exhibition at the beginning of last year, and it’s by far my favourite exhibition I have seen, every piece of work, including the sketches and watercolour studies was a work of awe-inspiring mastery.

JMW Turner-Turner-The Fighting Temeraire-Painting-Seascape-Oil Painting-Art-History-Ship-Ships-Nelson-Trafalgar
JMW Turner – The Fighting Temeraire – 1838

This beautifully painted piece is one of Turner’s greatest works, not just for his mastery over his medium, suggesting the sky and the sea in a breathtakingly accomplished manner; but for his skill in story telling and using symbolic methods to give his work ambiguous meanings. The pathos of many of Turner’s paintings is clearly evident and waiting to be explored further, but this particular painting tells a story with far more emotion and sadness than the obvious.

The literal story of this painting shows the end of an era, one of the greatest warships of the British Navy, whose power is shown by this piece to be declining; a hero ship that played a key part in the victory of the Battle of Waterloo being pulled along effortlessly by a small steam tugboat, led away from its former fame and glory to be taken and destroyed, its functional purpose no longer required as the age of steam is speedily taking over.

Another point worth noting is the stark contrast between the wonderfully elegant HMS Temeraire, facing her fate gracefully, with all strength and prowess in comparison to the small dark, evil looking steam tugboat; kicking out a thick billowing smog of black smoke and looking ugly for all intents and purposes.

This piece also speak volumes about Turner, in his 60’s at the time of painting this and steadily getting older in years, his eyesight worsening alongside his ageing. Andrew Wilton said in his book J.M.W. Turner: His Art and Life 

The demise of heroic strength is the subject of the painting, and it has been suggested that the ships stands for the artist himself, with an accomplished and glorious past but now contemplating his mortality. 

This masterpiece does evoke a strong sense of loss, but it also shows the power of a strong will and the refusal to face the end fearfully or with self-pity; the thought of giving up being a thought not even worth considering, let alone entertaining.

More Coffee!

Time for another quick cup and a quick glance at the quote –

“Light is therefore colour.”

A pretty self-explanatory quote as far as quote analysis goes, there may be people out there who could deduce an entire book from this quote, as for me personally, I’m happy just to read it and accept it for what it says. Admittedly though I would have used a different Turner quote for the £20 note, regardless of its relevance – 

“If I could find anything blacker than black, I’d use it.”

Although with that in mind, if alive now he definitely would be in anguish over the current Vantablack uproar and arguments; the blackest black which Anish Kapoor owns the exclusive rights to, a funny business really.

Anyway, that’s it for now and I’ll be back with another Morning Coffee in a fortnight, that way it gives me time to find an interesting topic to write about and get the research done; as opposed to just rambling aimlessly.

Thank you for taking the time to join me for a coffee this morning, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and taken something from the experience, please feel free to leave a comment and subscribe to my blog!


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