John Coburn (1925-2006) Icon, 1970

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Lot 29
John Coburn
(1925-2006)
Icon, 1970

Sold for AU$ 387,450 (US$ 270,544) inc. premium

Important Australian Art

17 Nov 2021, 18:00 EST

Sydney

John Coburn (1925-2006)
Icon, 1970
signed lower right: 'Coburn'
signed, dated and titled verso: 'ICON / JOHN COBURN / PARIS 1970 / 51 1/8 x 63 3/14'
oil on canvas
130.0 x 162.0cm (51 3/16 x 63 3/4in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Lister Gallery, Perth
    Private collection, Perth

    RELATED WORK
    Icon, 1969, hand woven tapestry, edition of 6, 146.0 x 190.0cm


    John Coburn is one of Australia's most iconic and recognisable abstraction artists of the 20th Century, his imagery identified by its bold colours and striking shapes. In 1969 at the height of Coburn's career he was recommended to architect Peter Hall to design the Sydney Opera House curtains. Hall was appointed to take over from Danish architect Jorn Utzon following a dispute with the New South Wales government and his resignation from the project in 1966.

    Coburn's career had already taken a significant turn when he was the first Australian artist invited to design tapestries for the world-renowned Aubusson workshop, some 250 kilometres south of Paris, in the 500 year old Chateau Felletin. Following the approval of his designs for the Sydney Opera House, Coburn moved with his young family to France allowing him direct access to oversea and supervise the manufacturing of the tapestries. With such a profile undertaking came immediate fame, another series of seven tapestries titled The Creation commissioned by the Australian Government, was presented as a gift to the United States and hung in the J.F. Kennedy centre for the performing arts in Washington.

    'During the 1970s, emboldened by his European experience and successful solo exhibitions in both Paris and New York, Coburn had gained sufficient confidence to embark on his own artistic mission: to develop a distinctly Australian abstract visual language. He sought a confluence of Western European culture, the Roman Catholic religion, Aboriginal spirituality and nature. His international influences were Matisse, Miro, Mondrian and Picasso and Rothko. His agnostic contemporaries watched in fascination as Coburn religiously pursued his holy abstractions. To those who wondered about the single-mindedness of his enterprise, Coburn replied: "There's nothing worse than an artist who continually changes style. My work is still evolving and developing along the same path."'1

    John Coburn once noted that 'my work has, over the years, and following a natural progress of development, gone from simplicity to greater complexity and back to simplicity again a number of times.'2 The present work, Icon, 1970, painted during his time in Paris, is part of a rare group of works showcasing a confident artist basking in his European and modern-day influences. Here he explores a simplified geometric design and daring colour combination which results in a strikingly harmonised composition.

    Alex Clark

    1. Alex Mitchell, 'John Coburn, Spirit of Abstraction', Art Collector, issue 14, October - December 2000
    2. Nadine Amadio, John Coburn: Paintings, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1988, p. 110
Contacts
John Coburn (1925-2006) Icon, 1970
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