Betty Churchers Notebooks

Betty Churcher

Betty Churchers Notebooks
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Betty Churchers Notebooks

Betty Churcher

In this gorgeously illustrated book, join Betty Churcher on a personal tour of her most beloved works, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Goya, Manet, Velazquez, Courbet, Vermeer and Cezanne.

A trained artist, Betty’s sketches reveal the secrets within the artworks and the processes of their creation. With the gift for making art accessible that characterised her popular television series, she gently leads your eye to these paintings' intimate details, describing their kinship with other masterpieces and their place in the history of art.

Betty Churcher’s deeply held belief that art has the power to transport the viewer to another place and time is evident in this delightful book. Here, there is no doubting the magic of great art.


The former director of the Australian National Gallery gives us a personal tour of some of her favourite paintings in some of the world’s greatest galleries (The National Gallery, London, The Prado Museum, The Metropolitan, New York, Kenwood House and the Courtauld Galleries, London, Le Petit Palais, Paris and the Doria Pamphilj, Rome) through the drawings in her personal notebooks. A charming and informative book, it is a window into the pleasures of viewing great art – and as a bonus, some anecdotal insights into the experience of running a world-class National Art Gallery (in which Blue Poles continues its starring role).

For Churcher, it is a revisiting of the art that has inspired her, as she prepares for a future that includes failing eyesight. A talented artist, Churcher has always found contemplation and drawing the key to connecting with works of genius. Composition, technique, colour, meaning, expression – these are unpacked for the reader though her drawings, reproduced in facsimile from the notebooks, and accompanying text which reads as part tour guide, part travelogue, part historian, and always engaging.

The next-best thing to visiting great galleries and viewing a masterpiece or two is reading about it in a book as engaging as this. Being drawn into the experience, and perhaps remembering what it was like – the excitement of your first foray into one of the great museums included in the book, for which Churcher also gives us background and historical notes. For me, it was particularly nice to find included paintings I’ve been taken with: Titian’s The Death of Actaeon, and Bellini’s portrait of The Doge Leonardo Loredan, as well as works by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Cezanne, Goya, Sydney Nolan and Jeffrey Smart, Botticelli, Tintoretto and Francis Bacon.

Margaret Snowdon is Art & Design Buyer at Readings Carlton.

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