Bye bye Betty

There was sad news today that Betty Churcher, to date still the only woman to be the head of the National Gallery of Australia, died earlier this week at the age of 84. It was a cruel irony that, prior to her death, this champion of the visual arts was losing her sight, because of a melanoma in one eye and to macular degeneration in the other.

What will stick in my mind is her commitment to sharing her knowledge of art with the broader Australian public and her commitment to drawing. On realising that her eyesight was failing, Churcher determined to visit her favourite works of art both in Australian and international galleries. The result are two stimulating books, Notebooks and Australian Notebooks which include her drawn studies of works of art. Her studies were made with such close observation that her drawings often reveal elements of extremely well-know paintings that I for one have totally missed.

She was truly a national treasure. So so long Betty, we’ll miss you!

Betty Churcher's drawing of The Sock Knitter by Grace Cossington Smith, 1915 in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Betty Churcher’s drawing of The Sock Knitter by Grace Cossington Smith, 1915 in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales

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