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John Coburn was born in Ingham, Queensland in 1925. Coburn studied art at the National Art School, Sydney from 1947 to 1950 where he taught for several years and was later appointed the Head of School from 1972 to 1974.
In his formative years, Coburn was influenced by the vividly coloured abstract works emerging through the Modernist movements in Europe; as seen in Cubist works by Pablo Picasso and Fauvist works by Henri Matisse. Also Coburn was drawn to the Abstract Expressionist movement in America, particularly inspired by the work of painter, Mark Rothko.
During this period, Rothko was developing philosophies that pursued pure abstraction, where colour and form was no longer dependent on tribal, archaic or religious mythologies or motifs that dominated his earlier work. Coburn's paintings incorporate large, stylised shapes in solid, luminescent colour that reflect the essence of Rothko's oeuvre. However, Coburn is drawn more to Symbolism and the art and philosophies of Eastern and Western religions. His works can be seen in a separatist viewpoint; religious spirituality and the spiritual essence of nature.
John Coburn's art is amongst the most highly recognised in Australian art making. Coburn has received numerous accolades for his paintings, tapestries and screenprints and has completed several large commissions that include two large tapestries for the Sydney Opera House; and a series of seven tapestries for the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC.
He has held several exhibitions of paintings and tapestries in Australia, and has also had exhibitions in Paris, New York, Washington and Hong Kong. Coburn's work is represented in collections such as the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney: Vatican Museum, Rome: Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna; all Australian state galleries and many regional galleries. He was awarded the Order of Australia (A.M.) in 1980, and Hon. D.Litt. James Cook University in 1991. Savill Galleries has a long association with Coburn's work and will consider the purchase of authentic John Coburn paintings held in public or private collections.