Skip to main content

Shakespeare to Winehouse open 9:00am–7:00pm on Thu, Fri, Sat from 7 July

Menu

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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Betty Churcher

1994
Anne Zahalka

ilfochrome photograph on paper, edition 1/1 (image/sheet: 40.0 cm x 40.0 cm)

(Elizabeth) Betty Churcher AO (1931–2015), gallery director, author, painter and lecturer, was educated in Brisbane before studying at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1955 she married English artist Roy Churcher and two years later they returned to Brisbane, where they had four sons. Throughout the 1960s Churcher worked as a high school art teacher, and from 1972 to 1975 she was an art critic for The Australian. At the age of 44, when she had been working for some years at the Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education, Churcher returned to London to study art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She finished up at Kelvin Grove in 1978, and from 1981 to 1987 she taught at the Dean School of Art and Design at the Preston/Phillip Institute of Technology in Melbourne.

In 1987, by which time she had spent three years as the Deputy Chairman of the Australia Council, and four as the Chair of the Visual Arts Board, Churcher was 'headhunted' by Robert Holmes à Court to become director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. She thus became the first female director of an Australian state gallery. After three years in Perth Churcher moved to Canberra to succeed James Mollison as Director of the National Gallery of Australia, heading the institution from 1990 to 1997. Throughout her career, she was a member of many cultural and heritage boards and committees. Churcher won the 1989 Australian Institute of Management Award for Women, and the 1996 Australian Newspaper's Australian of the Year Award. She was an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Cross Cultural Research at the Australian National University, presented several television series on art including Take Five, Eye to Eye and Proud Possessors, and authored several books including Understanding Art (1974), which won a London Times Literary Award, and Molvig: The lost Antipodean (1984).

Gift of the artist 2021
© Anne Zahalka/Copyright Agency, 2022

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

Anne Zahalka (age 37 in 1994)

Betty Churcher AO (age 63 in 1994)

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.

© National Portrait Gallery 2022
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency