JavaScript is required

Betty Churcher AO

Betty Churcher was the first female director of the National Gallery of Australia.

Honour Roll

Betty Churcher was born on 11 January 1931, in Brisbane. She was good at drawing and wanted to be a professional artist. She won a scholarship to study painting at the Royal College of Art in London. She also studied Art History at the Courtauld Institute in London, where she attained a Master of Arts. While there she met and married Australian artist, Roy Churcher. On her return, she taught Art at secondary schools before becoming an Art lecturer at various tertiary institutions.

In 1982, she became Dean of the School of Art and Design at the Phillip Institute of Technology in Victoria. In Melbourne, Betty chaired the Australia Council's Visual Arts Board (1983-87) before being appointed as the Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth. She was the first woman to head a state gallery.

In 1990, she replaced James Mollison as the Director of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, another first for a woman. She built a reputation for bringing 'blockbuster' art to Australia such as the 1992 Rubens and the Italian Renaissance exhibitions which made a profit of more than $1 million. She also presented 'The Age of Ankor' which showed 35 stone and bronze sculptures from the National Museum of Phnom Penh.

"My aim was for people who couldn't travel or would never travel to places where those great works could be seen, to have access to the art." Betty is said to have broadened the gallery's appeal through her 'public access' policy. Her publications include Understanding Art (1974) and Molvig: the Lost Antipodean (1984).