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hey Betty (Portrait of Betty Churcher)
, 1990

by Davida Allen

oil on plywood (frame: 249.0 cm x 223.0 cm)

Betty Churcher AO (b. 1931), 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 television series on art. Her books include Understanding Art (1974), which won a London Times Literary Award, and Notebooks (2011).

Davida Allen is a Queensland artist. As a student at Brisbane’s Sturt Holme Convent in the 1960s she had Betty Churcher as an art teacher. Later, she studied under Roy Churcher at the Brisbane Central Technical College. She had solo exhibitions at Ray Hughes gallery from 1973 to 1988, a solo retrospective show at the MOCA Brisbane in1988, and solo exhibitions at the NGV in 1983 and 1987, and has participated in many group exhibitions. In the 1980s she gained notoriety with a series of erotic works depicting actor Sam Neill. She was a popular Archibald winner in 1986 with a portrait of her father-in-law, John Shera, watering his garden. She has written and illustrated two books, The Autobiography of Vicki Myers: Close to the Bone and What is a Portrait? and she wrote and directed the loosely autobiographical feature film Feeling Sexy (1999). Her work is held by the National Gallery of Australia, and the state galleries of SA, WA, Qld and Victoria.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2004
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2004.9