Important Australian + International Fine Art
9 May 2007

John Coburn

(1925 - 2006)

oil on canvas (4)

64.5 x 89.5 cm (each)

each signed lower right: Coburn each inscribed verso: JOHN COBURN/ SUMMER (AUTUMN, WINTER, SPRING)/ 1994/ OIL

$80,000 - 120,000 (4)
Sold for $108,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 1 - 9 May 2007, Melbourne

The Royal Pines Resort, Queensland
Commissioned directly from the artist in 1994

Catalogue text

John Coburn's style is unique in Australian art and his contribution is one of inestimable worth. How does one value or rate in terms of dollars the art of a man whose vision elevates us to spiritual consciousness?'1

Unlike his contemporaries for whom abstraction represented the glorification of geometry and colour, John Coburn's vision is seldom purely cerebral or devoid of emotion. To the contrary, he is renowned for suffusing his art with an overwhelming sense of joy and celebration, his symbols speaking eloquently of both the beauty within nature and the nobility of the human spirit. Bearing strong affinities with the work of Matisse, Rothko and MirĂ², his vast oeuvre is thus motivated by an endearing admiration for the created world and its creator; indeed Nadine Amadio suggests Coburn as a pilgrim 'a man who has been prepared to make a journey and return with the gifts of his insight.'2

Embodying this concept of growth and regeneration, both natural and spiritual, 'The Seasons' is arguably one of the most fundamental motifs of Coburn's career- extending across all decades and media, and culminating in the series of nine monumental tapestries commissioned in 1988 by TheChristensen Fund, woven in the medieval town of Aubusson, France, and toured by the Fund internationally. Interweaving strands of the artist's faith and deep humanity, the four painted versions featured here are accordingly less literal, and more a poetic, transfiguring interpretation- the individual seasons of nature paralleling the growth, development, transformation and renewal of the spirit.

Like the celebrated tapestry series, here the resultant whole is similarly greater than the sum of its parts with the universal authority of the concept deriving precisely from the resonances that exist between the four compositions. Pulsating with raw energy and brilliant colour, Summer features the splendid golden sun which punctuates so many of his compositions- an ancient symbol for life, but also alluding to the host and Christ, the provider of eternal life. With its rich russet, flame and gold hues, the subsequent season is an unmistakably Australian autumn where summer lingers, while the dark night background of Winter powerfully evokes a sense of sleeping or hibernation and Spring, a joyous uprising of nature into the clarity of day, its bright shapes and upward movement vividly suggesting promise and renewal.

1. Strzynecki, P., 'Beyond Psalm 46' in John Coburn, Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 2000, p.8
2. Amadio, N., John Coburn: The Paintings, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1988, p.10