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John Coburn

Born 1925. Died 2006

John Coburn was regarded as one of the foremost Australian artists of his generation. He was born in 1926 in Ingham, North Queensland; his initial career was in banking, interrupted during World War II when he served in the navy. Soon after returning to the bank he decided to become an artist and enrolled at the East Sidney Technical College, which later became the National Art School. After spells of teaching and graphic design he began to achieve success as an exhibiting painter, holding his first one-man show in Melbourne in 1957.

In 1966 he moved to Paris following an invitation to design tapestries for the renowned Aubusson Workshops; while there he received acclaim for his designs for curtains at the new Sidney Opera House as well as a series of tapestries for the John K Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington.

During the 1970s his work focussed on the creation of a distinctly Australian abstract language which sought to combine aspects of Aboriginal spirituality with his own Roman Catholicism and the powerful artistic influences he encountered in Paris from the work of artists such as Matisse, Miro, Picasso and Mondrian. His work continued to use abstraction to convey religious and spiritual themes and he was an active supporter of the rights of the Australian Aborigines and promoter of Aboriginal art.

Early Spring