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The Fighting Temeraire voted the Greatest Painting in Britain

Category: News; Radio 4

Date: 05.09.2005
Printable version

After six weeks of voting the British public has chosen The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth to be broken up, 1838 - by J.M.W. Turner - as the winner of the Greatest Painting in Britain Poll.


On 25 July 2005 the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, in partnership with the National Gallery, launched the hunt to find the Greatest Painting in Britain.


The purpose was to stimulate a national debate about painting and focus attention on the great art that the nation holds - that 118,877 votes were cast, more than any other Radio 4 poll ever, seems to indicate this aim was achieved.


The announcement of The Fighting Temeraire as the people's choice with 27% of the vote, was made at 8.20am today by Today presenter Edward Stourton and National Gallery Director Charles Saumarez Smith in a live broadcast from the gallery.


Details of the voting -


1 - The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth to be broken up, 1838 - J.M.W. Turner (31,892)

2 - The Hay Wain - John Constable (21,711)

3 - A Bar at the Folies-Bergére - Edouard Manet (13,280)

4 - The Arnolfini Portrait - Jan Van Eyck (11,298)

5 - Mrs and Mrs Clark and Percy - David Hockney (8,890)

6 - Sunflowers - Vincent Van Gogh (8,603)

7 - Rev Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch - Sir Henry Raeburn (8,189)

8 - The Last of England - Ford Madox Brown (5,283)

9 - The Baptism of Christ - Piero della Francesca (5,028)

10 - The Rake's Progress - William Hogarth (3,999)


The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth to be broken up, 1838 was painted in 1839 and presented to the National Gallery in 1856 as part of the Turner Bequest.


The painting depicts the last journey of the Temeraire, a famous warship sold by the Royal Navy in 1838.


It was towed up the River Thames from Sheerness in Kent to a ship-breaker's yard in Rotherhithe, South London.


Turner contrasts the veteran ship, seen against the setting sun, with the modern steam-propelled tug.


That The Fighting Temeraire has been voted the Greatest Painting in Britain is particularly topical as it is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.


The Temeraire fought with conspicuous bravery in the battle beside Nelson's flagship Victory.


Trafalgar was so decisive a victory that the French posed no further threat by sea. Great war machines such as the Temeraire, once venerated as 'hearts of oak' and 'bulwarks of the nation', were relegated to humbler duties and finally left to decay or be broken up.


Like a private death, her passing was unremarked by most of Turner's contemporaries. No other painter saw a subject in it.


However out of a 'four foot canvas, representing a ship a steamer, a river and a sunset' Turner made a thing of such beauty and emotion that Thackeray likened The Fighting Temeraire to a magnificent national ode, or piece of music.


Charles Saumarez Smith said: "I was very delighted that Turner's great painting of The Fighting Temeraire won the BBC poll of Greatest Painting in Britain and I hope that it will encourage as many people as possible to come and see the painting, hanging in the same room at the National Gallery as Constable's The Hay Wain, which came second.


"The poll has helped stimulate public discussion about art over the breakfast tables of the United Kingdom and has encouraged people to rediscover great art throughout the country."


Notes to Editors


This press release was issued by the National Gallery on behalf of the gallery and the BBC.




The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Category: News; Radio 4

Date: 05.09.2005
Printable version


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

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