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Betty Churcher

28 August 2015

Betty Churcher, 2008 Adam Knott
Betty Churcher, 2008 Adam Knott

Betty Churcher AO (1931–2015), gallery director, author, painter and lecturer, was educated in Brisbane before studying art in London. In 1955 she married English artist Roy Churcher and two years later they returned to Brisbane, where throughout the 1960s Betty Churcher worked as a high school art teacher. From 1972 to 1975 she was an art critic for the Australian. A mother of four, at the age of 44 she returned to London to study art history at the Courtauld Institute, and from 1981 to 1987 she taught at Melbourne’s Preston/Phillip Institute of Technology. In 1987, by which time she had spent some years on the Australia Council and the Visual Arts Board, she was ‘headhunted’ to become director of the Art Gallery of WA, thus becoming the first female director of an Australian state gallery. After three years in Perth she moved to Canberra to succeed James Mollison as Director of the National Gallery of Australia. Having led the institution from 1990 to 1997, from 1998 she was an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Cross Cultural Research at the ANU, and presented three beguiling television series on art. Her books include Understanding Art (1974), which won a London Times Literary Award, and Notebooks (2011).

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Betty Churcher AO

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