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Bill Leak

1956 – 2017

Bill Leak (1956-2017), portrait painter and caricaturist, trained at the Julian Ashton art school in the mid-1970s, and began his career painting landscapes. In 1978 he left Australia to travel and study in Europe. He returned to Australia in 1982, exhibited in Sydney and worked as a cartoonist at the Bulletin. In 1985 he began a ten-year stint as an illustrator for the Sydney Morning Herald; ten years later he took on the role of chief political illustrator for the Australian. As well as his nine Walkley awards for journalism, and nineteen Stanley Awards from the Australian Black and White Artists' Society (eight of them Gold Awards for Artist of the Year), he has been an Archibald Prize finalist twelve times. The National Portrait Gallery has painted portraits by Leak of Don Bradman, Richard Woolcott and Robert Hughes, as well as a cartoon of Mark Taylor. It is indicative of Leak's popularity that Josonia Palaitis's portrait of him won the Archibald People's Choice Award in 1995 and Esther Erlich's portrait of him won the same award in 2000. To widespread public dismay, Leak required cranial surgery and long recuperation after a fall from a balcony in late 2008.

Updated 2017