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2006/25/1 Photographic prints (179), book, and documents (4), construction of the Sydney Opera House, photographs by Max Dupain for Peter Hall, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1958-1973. Click to enlarge.

Max Dupain photographs of the Sydney Opera House

Made in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1958-1973.

This collection of photographs forms a notable record of the construction of Australia’s best-known and best-loved building. The collection gains symmetry and value from its production by a photographer bearing similar credentials.

Despite Jorn Utzon’s obscurity and inexperience, the brilliance of his competition proposal made the Sydney Opera House famous even before construction began. Dissolving the normal language of walls and roof, Utzon placed most of the building within a massive granit...


Object No.


Object Statement

Photographic prints (179), book, and documents (4), construction of the Sydney Opera House, photographs by Max Dupain for Peter Hall, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1958-1973

Physical Description

A collection of 179 gelatin silver prints showing various stages of the construction of the Sydney Opera House, 1958 to 1973.

The photographs are preserved in a black solander box with title label "Sydney Opera House by Max Dupain - Peter Hall Collection".

The auction lot purchased at Bonhams London also included the following publications and ephemera:
'Sydney Builds an Opera House', edited by Oswald L. Ziegler, Oswald Ziegler Publications, Sydney, 1973; loosely inserted are: 'A Guide to the Sydney Opera House' by John Yeomans, Sydney Opera Trust Publication; the first program for the acoustic test concert ("Sydney Opera House. The ABC National Training Orchesta. Conducted by Robert Miller. Sunday 21st January 1973"); a folded program for the opening ceremony of "The XXth Australian Dental Congress 15 July 1973"; and a pamphlet on the building 30.3 x 30.3 cm.



The photography of Max Dupain (1911-1992) has attracted an extraordinary level of popular recognition, based largely on a small number of images recording beachside and urban locales. These images are untypical of Dupain's work, the vast majority of which was commissioned by a wide range of commercial clients.

With Laurence Le Guay, Russell Roberts and Olive Cotton, Dupain was part of a generation of Sydney photographers who emerged during the 1930s, responding to increased demand for advertising and fashion photography. These circumstances plus contemporary influences gave Dupain's work a self-conscious alignment with modernity in design. From the 1950s his studio attracted a growing number of architectural commissions. The post-War building boom, generally expressed in the language of international modernism, meant that Dupain's architectural work was notable for its synergy of photographer and subject, whether documenting the prefabricated fibro houses manufactured by his friend Chris Vandyke or major city projects such as Australia Square or the Sydney Opera House.

This collection is typical of Dupain's architectural work, especially his ability to heighten and delineate built forms, with the added documentary interest of the interaction of structure and building workers. Dupain's record of the latter is frequently as stylised as his documentation of the emerging Opera House.

Charles Pickett, 2006

Each print measures 350 x 350mm. They were not necessarily shot as square format negs, rather cropped to this format from original rectangular format negatives, for rehousing as a boxed presentation set.

Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, 2019



Max Dupain photographed the construction of the Sydney Opera House from its commencement in 1958. However most of these photographs record the last eight years of the project, from 1965.

This collection of photographs was printed for Peter Hall, the Government architect who took over as supervisor of the project after Jorn Utzon's departure from the project.

Several of these photographs have been displayed in exhibitions at the State Library of New South Wales and the Exhibition Hall, Sydney Opera house.


Credit Line

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Dr Peter Farrell, CEO and Chairman, on behalf of ResMed, 2005

Acquisition Date

27 February 2006

Cite this Object


Max Dupain photographs of the Sydney Opera House 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 October 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Max Dupain photographs of the Sydney Opera House |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 October 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Icons: From the MAAS Collection at the Powerhouse Museum.

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