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Michael Leunig

b. 1945

Michael Leunig (b. 1945), cartoonist, was born in working-class East Melbourne, and studied briefly at university before dropping out to follow the career path of his father, who worked as a slaughterman. At the same time, he began drawing cartoons, and in the mid-1960s his work began to appear in such publications as Woman’s Day and London’s Oz magazine. He later served as resident cartoonist for the afternoon paper Newsday before gaining wider recognition in the 1970s with his work for the Nation Review. In his earliest work Leunig had endeavoured to conduct himself as a classic political cartoonist; but in 1969, frustrated by the genre’s conventions, he submitted a surrealistic cartoon of a man wearing a teapot on his head riding into a sunset on a large duck. It was published, and Leunig would later come to see it as a symbolic depiction of his own escape from the strictures of political cartooning. His subsequent work – in which the duck has frequently reappeared, along with such recurrent characters as Vasco Pyjama and Mr Curly of Curly Flat – has been adapted for television, theatre and radio, and has been collected in many books, beginning with The Penguin Leunig (1974). He is a regular contributor to the Melbourne Age – where his cartoons generally appear three to four times a week – and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Updated 2018