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Last Updated: Monday, 5 September 2005, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Turner wins 'great painting' vote
The Fighting Temeraire by Turner (copyright the National Gallery)
The Fighting Temeraire was one of 10 paintings shortlisted
The Fighting Temeraire by Turner has beaten works by Van Gogh, Hogarth and David Hockney to be named the greatest painting in Britain in a public vote.

Constable's The Hay Wain came second in the poll, organised by BBC Radio 4's Today programme in association with the National Gallery in London.

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Edouard Manet came third, while The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck came fourth.

Any painting in a British art gallery was eligible, regardless of its origin.

The other paintings on the shortlist were:

  • The Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesca
  • A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth
  • The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch by Sir Henry Raeburn
  • The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown
  • Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh
  • Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney

The shortlisted paintings spanned more than five centuries of European art and included works by British, Italian, Dutch, Belgian and French artists.

The Hay Wain by Constable (copyright the National Gallery)
The Hay Wain came second in the survey with 21,711 votes
The full title of Turner's painting, completed in 1839, is "The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her Last Berth to be broken up, 1838".

The 98-gun ship Temeraire played a distinguished role in Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The ship remained in service until 1838, when she was decommissioned and towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe to be broken up.

The artwork, painted by Joseph Mallord William Turner when he was in his 60s, is thought to represent the decline of Britain's naval power.

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Manet (copyright the National Gallery)
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Manet finished in third place
One of many works Turner bequeathed to the nation, the painting is currently hanging at National Gallery.

It attracted more than a quarter of the votes cast in the national survey - 31,892 out of a total 118,111 votes.

National Gallery director Charles Saumarez Smith said he was delighted with the outcome of the poll.

"I have been incredibly impressed by the amount of public interest it has generated."

Is The Fighting Temeraire the greatest painting in Britain? If not, what do you think deserves that honour? And are there any other paintings you think should have made the shortlist?

Your comments:

I listened to Radio 4 this morning and I heard one commentator say that it could be interpreted not as the sunset of wind and wood, but as the dawn of the steam age - and Turner could have been celebrating the rise of technology. This had never occurred to me, and will increase my enjoyment of this painting. That so much can be taken from it shows how good it is.
Eddie, Edinburgh

Having visited the National Gallery for the first time this weekend, I felt that Constable's Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows was superior to both The Hay Wain and The Fighting Temeraire.
Chris, Leeds, UK

It's good to see a decent selection of art in the poll rather than something a monkey in a blindfold could paint! The Fighting Temeraire is an excellent painting which not only looks good but preserves a piece of history.
Dominic, Nottingham

I still can't believe that the dogs playing poker wasn't shortlisted!
Scott F, Lincoln

What about Goya, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Hamilton? In my opinion, this isn't even Turner's best work!
Jamie, Reading, UK

This choice will resonate with anyone who has stood in front of this painting in the National Gallery and reflected on Britain's naval traditions and the lives of her sailors. It's a staggeringly evocative piece.
Adrian, Guildford

The vote wouldn't be influenced by the inclusion of the painting in the previous week's Coast?
Damian, Birkenhead

I am no art critic but this seems a good winner; better than seeing some abstract durge that a snail could have wiped across a canvas.
Simon Collins, Cirencester, UK

How could any shortlist of the greatest paintings in Britain omit The Ambassadors by Holbein?
Derek Blyth, Hatfield, Herts

I'll go for The Lady of Shalott by Holman-Hunt. It has movement and impact. If nobody else likes it can I have it please?
Kip, Norwich, UK

I agree with the nomination of Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross - if the test of art is that it touches the spirit, then this work must win hands down.
Ronnie MB, The Fens, UK

What a pointless exercise. How many of the voting public had the opportunity to view all the shortlisted paintings before making their choice? How many great paintings missed consideration because they were not well enough known? I suspect many people's personal favourite is chosen from a relatively small number of paintings they have noticed in their all-too-short lives.
Anthony Gilbert, Leeds, England

Well done to the British public for recognising true artistic talent (with one or two exceptions well down the list) and rejecting most of the pretentious rubbish that passes for art these days.
Dave, Leeds, England

Although I also think that the poll should not have been based on a shortlist, I do not that the winner would be any different.
Starvin, Nettlebed United Kingdom

The significance of the painting lies in its full title and some knowledge of the part played by the ship at Trafalgar, where it was so closely engaged that its rigging became entangled with the enemy's. Its reward for this heroism from the post-Trafalgar generation was to be broken up as an obsolete hulk, tellingly tugged by a (modern) steam ship. Turner depicts this as a metaphor for the ungrateful and forgetful attitude of a never-had-it-so-good generation towards the one before. Of course, whether it is a great painting is a spurious (but harmless) debate.
M Daley, London

Having seen The Fighting Temeraire at the Turner exhibition in Birmingham last year, I wholeheartedly agree with the public's choice. It is a breathtaking piece that illustrates a key point in history and speaks to even inland members of this seafaring nation.
Helen Reed, Birmingham

In a word: boring. Is anything post-WW2 not good enough? Or are they too lacking in dreary landscapes to appease you Brits?
Samantha, Spain

For me it would have to be Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali, in the Glasgow Art Gallery.
Stephen Dalziel, London

Polls based on shortlists are meaningless. This poll has not proved that this painting is the greatest in Britain since 99% of the possible candidates were excluded before the voting started.
Jerry, Luton

See what other painters Turner pipped to the post

'Greatest paintings' shortlisted
15 Aug 05 |  Entertainment
Greatest painting poll launched
25 Jul 05 |  Entertainment


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