Betty (Elizabeth) Ann Churcher, AO (née Cameron) (born 11 January 1931 in Brisbane, Australia) is best known as director of the National Gallery of Australia from 1990 to 1997. She was also a painter in her own right earlier in her life. She won a travelling scholarship to Europe and attended the London Royal College of Art. She received an Master of Arts from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London in 1977.
From age 7 to 15, she attended Somerville House School paid for by her grandmother. She left school after grade 10, because her father didn't think she needed a higher education. Between 1972 and 1975, Churcher was art critic for The Australian newspaper. She was the Dean of School of Art and Design, Phillip Institute of Technology (now RMIT University) between 1982 and 1990, and director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia from 1987 to 1990. She left after disagreements with Robert Holmes à Court about the gallery's acquisition of a Pierre Bonnard painting.She was then appointed director of the Australian National Gallery. She has hosted several television shows in the 1990s and written several books, including The Art of War about war artists. Her son, Peter Churcher, was Australia's official war artist in the War on Terrorism.
While director of the National Gallery, she was dubbed "Betty Blockbuster" because of her love of blockbuster exhibitions and for her love of movies. Churcher initiated the building of new galleries on the eastern side of the building, opened in March 1998, to house large-scale temporary exhibitions. She changed the name of the Gallery from the Australian National Gallery to its current title. During her period the Gallery also purchased Golden Summer, Eaglemont by Arthur Streeton for $3.5 million. This was the last great picture from the Heidelberg School still in private hands.
|2008 photograph by Dean Golja|
In 1996 a portrait of Churcher painted by her son, Peter Churcher and titled Betty at Home was a finalist in the Archibald Prize. The prize is awarded for the "best portrait painting preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics". Davida Allen painted a portrait of her in 1990, titled Hey Betty.
Churcher now dedicates her time to displaying hidden artworks and lesser known acquisitions of the National Gallery of Australia in a television program called "Hidden Treasures" on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Betty is married to Roy and has four sons, Ben, Paul, Peter and Tim. She has seven grandchildren: Isabel, Lucas, Saul, Charlotte, Toby, Reuben and Oliver.
Churcher has written a number of books on art including:
- Churcher, Betty (1973). Understanding Art. Adelaide: Rigby. ISBN 0-85179-699-0.
- Churcher, Betty (2005). The Art of War. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-85099-5.
- Churcher, Betty (2011). Notebooks. The Miegunyah Press. ISBN 978-0-522-85842-6.
- Churcher, Betty; Lucy Quinn (2013). Treasures of Canberra. Braddon, Australian Capital Territory: Halstead Press. ISBN 9781920831981.
- Churcher, Betty (2013). Adam & Sarah Explore Turner. Canberra: National Gallery of Australia. ISBN 9780642334374.
- Churcher, Betty (2014). Australian Notebooks. Melbourne: Miegunyah Press. ISBN 9780522864199.
- "Churcher, Elizabeth Ann".  It's an Honour website. 11 June 1996. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
- "Betty Churcher – Interview Transcript tape 1". Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- "A Life Well Drawn" by Kate Legge, The Weekend Australian Magazine, 29–30 March 2014, pp. 10–14
- Green, Pauleen (ed) (2003). Building the Collection. National Gallery of Australia. p. 174. ISBN 0-642-54202-3.
- "Archibald Prize 07". Art Gallery NSW. Retrieved 19 July 2007.
- Betty Churcher in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Hidden Treasures with Betty Churcher
- Biography by Glenn R. Cooke, in Dictionary of Australian Artists
- Educational Resources involving Betty Churcher
- Betty Churcher in the Encyclopedia of Women and Leader in Twentieth Century Australia
|Director of the National Gallery of Australia