Book Review: Australian Notebooks

Australian Notebooks by Betty Churcher

Australian Notebooks by Betty Churcher is a collection of the author’s notes on paintings from several Australian art museums. Churcher was the director of the National Gallery of Australia from 1990 to 1997. 

Australian Notebooks is an interesting book especially for the American reader. Although there are several internationally well known artist’s covered, there are plenty of Australian artists covered too. I am by no means an art expert but can tell Van Gogh from Monet and Dali form Rivera. This book brings in a wide selection of different artists, many I have not heard of. With each painting is a sketch by the author with her notes and a brief history the artist. I was surprised by some of the Australian works, not because they were good, but because I have never seen them before. Frederick McCubbin’s “Down on His Luck” captures the emotion of a man with his bag of possessions sitting at a small camp fire. The dread lingers throughout the entire painting. Emmanuel Phillips Fox’s “The Ferry” use of color creates almost motion in the painting. Not all painting are by Australian’s, but paintings held in Australia. Perhaps my favorite is the modern landscape by the German, Anselm Kiefer –Twilight of the West (Abendland)

Churcher covers works in the Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, The National Gallery of Australia, The National Gallery of Victoria, The Art Gallery of South Australia, and The Art Gallery of Western Australia. This represents a wide spread of the country’s best held art. 

Churcher’s sketches with notes will give the reader a personal insight to the covered works. The text provides an excellent background into the artist and art. Australian Notebooks offers a great introduction to art for those who may appreciate art, but not know its history and for those a little intimidated by art. A very good read for all.

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