Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 September 2010

John Coburn

(1925 - 2006)

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

202.5 x 171.5 cm

signed lower right: Coburn

$50,000 - 70,000
Sold for $108,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 16 - 1 September 2010, Sydney

Private collection, Melbourne
Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne, 26 November 2003, lot 42
Private company collection, Sydney


Amadio, N., John Coburn Paintings, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1988, p. 198

Catalogue text

In Resurrection Tree 1973 John Coburn combines a number of Christian ideas relating to joyous salvation. While the painting can be read on a purely formal level in the interplay of biomorphic forms and resonant colours, Coburn employed his own means to celebrate, through the symbol of the tree, the way to and attainment of resurrection. The tree itself is an ancient symbol in both the pagan and Christian worlds. While oak trees were sacred to the ancient Druids and their Celtic followers, Jewish and Christian believers had a Tree of Knowledge growing in the Garden of Eden. Ominously its fruit led to the Fall and the entry of sin into the world. For Christians redemption also came through a tree, death on the wood of the Cross leading to the glorious Resurrection of Easter. This is what Coburn's pictorialises in colourful celebration, expressed through pulsating colours and upraised forms - hands of applause and profiled shouts of praise - the joy of Eastertide.

The concept grew from two parallel interests. On one side is the Crucifixion, Coburn's The Triptych of the Passion 1960 with its blood reds and sharp, tortured forms being awarded that year's Blake Prize for Religious Art. Gardens also had a special interest, inspired by his mother's tropical garden in north Queensland. This is reflected in the abundance of greens and blues in many of his paintings, centred on the tree image as early as 1965 in Tree of Life I in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Tree of Life III is in the Vatican Museum's Collection of Modern Religious Art. While Coburn's art moves easily between hot colours of celebration and the sunburnt Outback or the fecundity of lively greens and resonant blues, the predominant theme that runs throughout is joy. This he achieves through the mastery of hard-edged colour field painting and the harmonising of forms geometric and biomorphic. As one of Australia's foremost religious artists, Coburn's ability to create images of passion and joy was unrivalled.