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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

hey Betty (Portrait of Betty Churcher)

1990
Davida Allen

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

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 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 Stuartholme School 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 Museum of Contemporary Art in Brisbane in 1988, and solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria 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 South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2004. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
© Davida Allen

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Davida Allen (age 39 in 1990)

Betty Churcher AO (age 59 in 1990)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Donated by

Davida Allen (2 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Betty Churcher
Betty Churcher
Betty Churcher
Betty Churcher

Tribute

Betty Churcher

Magazine article, 2015

Betty Churcher AO (1931–2015), gallery director, author, painter and lecturer, was educated in Brisbane before studying art in London.

'The portraits of Captain Cook'

An interview with Betty Churcher

Portrait story

Betty Churcher describes the creation of the portrait of Captain James Cook in the National Portrait Gallery.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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