The BBC recently held a poll on the greatest painting in Britain, which asked audiences to nominate their vote for the best painting. Any work in a British art gallery was eligible.
The Fighting Temeraire, 1839, by Joseph Mallord Turner, was voted the greatest painting in Britain and The Hay Wain, 1821, by John Constable came second. Further runners-up included Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882; William Hogarth, A Rake’s Progress, 1733-35; Jan Van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434 and Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ, 1450.
Charles Saumarez-Smith, Director of the National Gallery, London 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 gallery as Constable’s Hay Wain, which came second.”
Hay Wain had been promoted as painting of the month in the National Gallery prior to the poll.
“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,” said Saumarez-Smith.