This commemorative 'Australia' tapestry is a major late work by Jean Lurcat (1892-1965), leader of the revival of tapestry in France and master of 20th century French tapestry design. It was commissioned for Anzac House, College Street, Sydney (demolished 1988), the State War Memorial to the servicemen and women of NSW who served in World War II from 1939 to 1945. The tapestry was woven by Suzanne Goubely-Gatien at the renowned Aubusson factory in France.
Designed in three emblematic horizontal bands, the tapestry symbolises the Australian Imperial Forces and the part played by them in wars throughout the world. Fish and marine life represent the Navy, flora and fauna in the central band represent the Army, and the birds and sky represent the Air Force. At the centre of the tapestry is a large sun, within which appears the Southern Cross constellation, a branch of wattle and faces symbolising Australian youth who lost their lives on the battlefields. The sun glows against a black background highlighted with the stars of the Southern Hemisphere, including the Milky Way. Importantly, the tapestry also represents the sacrifices made by the men and women of New South Wales during the Second World War.
Lurcat's tapestry hung in the Hall of Remembrance at Anzac House from 1962 to 1987, alongside an eternal flame. Public access to the tapestry was limited however from the early 70s, when the Hall of Remembrance was locked after youthful Vietnam war protesters burnt their fathers' World War II uniforms on the eternal flame. The Anzac House Trust moved to Kent Street in Sydney in 1987. In 1988, the 'Australia' tapestry was presented to the Powerhouse Museum by the Anzac House Trust, who represented the Returned Services League of Australia (NSW Branch), as a bicentennial gift to the people of New South Wales.
Curator Decorative Arts & Design