Skip to main content

Main navigation

A curtain with yellow-pink tapestry art.

Coburn Tapestries

Discover the famous Coburn tapestries, the Curtain of the Sun and the Curtain of the Moon, the original house curtains for the Opera Theatre and Drama Theatre stages. Learn about the history behind this great Australian story, and get creative with hands-on art activities inspired by these iconic works. 

What are the Coburn Tapestries?

In 1969, architect Peter Hall commissioned John Coburn, an Australian modern abstract artist known for vivid geometric paintings, to design the Sydney Opera House theatre curtains. 

Coburn worked with the weavers Pinton Frères in France for three years to make the magnificent tapestries. The curtains, named Curtain of the Sun for the Opera Theatre (now called the Joan Sutherland Theatre) and Curtain of the Moon for the Drama Theatre were hung in 1972. 

In the 1980s they were removed due to concerns of their preservation in a live theatre environment, and have since been conserved and restored, only making few special appearances throughout the decades.

Stream, Read & Listen

A women assessing the Tapestry cloth in a warehouse.

Restoring the Coburn Tapestries

John Coburn was at the height of his fame when the artist was pitched to architect Peter Hall to design the Sydney Opera House theatre curtains in 1969. Hall had taken over from Danish architect Jørn Utzon and was ushering the building towards completion.

A man in a suit staring at artwork on a wall.

Rosso’s tapestry obsession

Tim Ross, design enthusiast and presenter, has become fixated with the Opera House’s historic tapestries – so much so he’s hosting a podcast about them.

Classroom resources

A curtain in the Concert hall with tapestry art.

Art activities

Visual Arts activities for the classroom.

Download