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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Portrait of Les Tanner

1984
John Spooner

etching on paper (sheet: 40.5 cm x 30.0 cm, image: 30.3 cm x 22.5 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Les Tanner was one of Australia’s best-known caricaturists. Born in Glebe, New South Wales, he is said to have taken up drawing portraits as early as age five, and as a teenager contributed cartoons to the school newspaper. Such was his talent that he was accepted into the Julian Ashton Art School at a reduced fee, completing day classes there while working night shifts as a compositor at the Daily Telegraph. He later moved to the Telegraph’s design and illustration department, his first published cartoon appearing in 1944. Immediately after the war, he worked for a newspaper published by the British Occupation Force in Japan and on returning to Sydney in 1948 undertook more study at East Sydney Technical College. A member of the Communist Party, Tanner acted in and designed sets for productions at Sydney’s New Theatre from the late 1940s, and during the 1950s worked as the political cartoonist for the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, building a considerable following. He then became art director and cartoonist for the Bulletin, working in this role for several years during which he branched into sculpted caricatures in plaster and ceramic. In February 1967, Sir Frank Packer ordered the pulping of a Bulletin issue that included an editorial protesting against the execution of Ronald Ryan and illustrated by a Tanner cartoon depicting Victorian premier Sir Henry Bolte as a hangman. By this time, the Melbourne Age had offered Tanner twice the money to work as the paper’s first editorial cartoonist; by 1973, now with two Walkley Awards under his belt, Tanner was contributing his own weekly column, Tanner with words, in addition to cartoons. He retired from the Age in 1997, having facilitated the donation of many original cartoons to a number of public collections.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2004

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

John Spooner (age 38 in 1984)

Les Tanner (age 57 in 1984)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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