Hidden Treasures - Inside the National Library of Australia


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2008, Total running time 50 Minutes (10 x 5 Minutes)

Presented by Betty Churcher

The National Library of Australia is the country's largest reference library with over nine million items in its collection, including a surprising number of art works. In a new series of Hidden Treasures, Betty Churcher presents an insider's guide to some of the little known and rarely displayed art treasures held by the National Library. From her unique vantage point, Churcher makes intriguing historical connections between paintings and engravings, photography, manuscripts and artefacts, illustrated journals and diaries. These are fascinating tales about the creative process and the works themselves that offer a tantalising insight into Australia's culture and heritage.

Captain Cook in Hawaii The story of Captain James Cook’s ill-fated final voyage to the Pacific is one of tragic cultural misunderstanding. The explorers received a heroes’ welcome when Cook’s ship, Resolution, first landed at Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay. But the welcome was short-lived once the islanders realised that the Resolution did not represent, as they first imagined, an earthly visitation of their god Orono—and this cost Cook his life in 1779.

Captain Cook’s Tragic Death Captain James Cook’s untimely return to Hawaii ended with his violent death, the details of which are portrayed in numerous conflicting illustrations.

South Sea Islander in London Omai, a young Tahitian warrior who joined Captain James Cook’s second voyage, had his portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and inspired a spectacular pantomime at Covent Garden.

A Passionate Collector New Zealander Rex Nan Kivell was an avid collector of anything to do with 18th century exploration and the early settlement of Australia and New Zealand. Through his passion for collecting Kivell invented a new aristocratic identity.

First Fleet Sketches First Fleet captain John Hunter’s sketchbook showing life in Botany Bay was copied from the work of his talented young midshipman, George Raper.

Augustus Earle and his Dog, Jemmy Misadventure turned to good fortune when young English artist Augustus Earle was rescued after being marooned on a remote island and accidentally became the colony’s first trained artist.

Figure in the Landscape John Glover revolutionised his art and became one of Australia’s finest landscape artists after arriving in Tasmania at the age of 64 in 1831. A good English landscape painter, Glover became an outstanding Australian landscape painter when he turned his eye to an unfamiliar environment to produce the best works of his career. Glover’s private sketchbooks show he was appalled by the atrocities he saw committed against the Aboriginal people and was eager to portray them in the idyllic world he imagined they had once enjoyed. What he saw transformed him from a purely landscape painter into a figure in the landscape – a considerable departure for a man in late career.

The Flower Hunter Victorian flower painter Ellis Rowan rocked the Australian art establishment when she won the Centennial Art Prize in 1888, defeating established male artists including Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin and prompting a complaint by the Victorian Art Society

The Photographer and the Painter Artists working in different media have created a visual time capsule showing Melbourne in the late 1800s.

John Olsen’s Opera House Mural John Olsen’s visual diary documents his progress on the biggest commission of his career, the Sydney Opera House mural. Spanning 10 years from 1972, Olsen’s diary follows the evolution of his famous mural, which was inspired by Kenneth Slessor’s epic poem Five Bells, a tribute to a friend who drowned in Sydney Harbour.


Australian Biography: Betty Churcher

Hidden Treasures – Inside the National Gallery of Australia

Sculptured Seal

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. Produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. With special thanks to the National Library of Australia. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

FREE Teachers' Notes - Download here


Producers: Betty Churcher, John Hughes

Director: John Hughes

Writer/Narrator: Betty Churcher

Year: 2008

Running Time: 50 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: Visual and Creative Arts, English, History, SOSE/HSIE and Media.


SKU 200701600
Brand Film Australia

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