Cartoon by Ron Tandberg
In 1985 John Howard was elected leader of the Liberal Party, and thus replaced Andrew Peacock (on the swing) as Leader of the Opposition

Ron Tandberg was an Australian political cartoonist who published in the newspaper The Age between 1972 and 2018. Before his fame as a cartoonist, he also had a daily newspaper comic, 'Fred and Others'.

Ronald Peter Tandberg was born in 1943 in Melbourne, Australia. His father worked as a factory worker at William Angliss Meatworks. He grew up in a working-class neighbourhood and only finished his secondary school. Yet despite all odds he was able to study art and graphic design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Tandberg had a fascination for Dutch painter Rembrandt Van Rijn, whose amazingly realistic but at the same time brutally honest self portraits left a lifelong impression.

Fred and Others by Ron Tandberg
Fred and Others (St. Louis Post Dispatch, 16 November 1971)

After graduation Tandberg became an art teacher at Williamstown High School. In 1963 he found a job in the art department of Leader Community Newspapers. He was eventually fired when he got caught impersonating the general manager. For a while he worked at an advertising firm while creating the daily comic strip 'Fred and Others', syndicated by the Melbourne newspaper The Herald and the Adelaide paper The Advertiser. In the period 1971-1973 it got picked by The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times too. Yet 'Fred and Others' was never a huge success. Many papers dropped it again in favour for more popular comics. Tandberg didn't despair and tried to find another publication willing to publish it. He tried the Melbourne newspaper The Age, but they had no interest in comics and actually favoured a political cartoonist. Since Tandberg didn't care much for politics he left empty-handed.

Fred and Others by Ron Tandberg
Fred and Others (St. Louis Post Dispatch, 8 April 1972)

Around the same time Tandberg published cartoons in a local teacher union magazine. It earned him some money, but the editors considered firing him since his illustrations weren't directly related to the issues they addressed in their articles. Tandberg instantly decided to supply to their demand and became a political cartoonist almost overnight. His work eventually caught the interest of The Age again and thus he ironically got hired by the paper for a job he originally didn't care about. Tandberg first published two cartoons a week, but soon his work appeared on a daily basis, making him effectively their home cartoonist. From 1972 on each issue of The Age featured a cartoon by Tandberg on their front page. Since his cartoons were printed in such a small format Tandberg worked in a simple, instantly readable style.

Cartoon by Ron Tandberg
Walkley Award-winning cartoon of Malcolm Fraser (1979)

For almost 45 years Tandberg satirized both Australian as well as international politics. Like any sharp cartoonist, he managed to offend quite some thick-skinned politicians. One time, at a public event hosted by Fairfax, Tandberg was present to make sketches on stage. Also present was Jeff Kennett, Prime Minister of the Australian province Victoria, who deliberately turned his back to the cartoonist to avoid being caricatured. Yet the artist had drawn the politician often enough to caricature him from the top of his head. He made a cartoon in which Kennett's mouth "opened up" Melbourne and Victoria, depicted as Port Phillip Bay. As the audience laughed Kennett yelled that "Tandberg had offended half the population by laughing with him and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser." Tandberg snapped back: "Judging by the last election results, you've offended half the population of Victoria." Defeated, Kennett stormed out. Afterwards Tandberg heared that Fairfax's CEO Fred Hilmer felt so offended that he considered firing him.

Cartoon by Ron Tandberg
Cartoon about the jailing of two Aboriginal children for allegedly spitting at politician Pauline Hanson (1997)

In the 1990s Tandberg also drew cartoons for The Herald Sun. His work has been awarded with 11 Walkley Awards, two of which gold. In 2002 he won the Quills People's Choice Award and the National Museum of Australia Political Humour Award twice in 2002 and 2003. In 2006 the cartoonist received the Melbourne Press Club Quill Award for Best Illustration in Any Medium. His cartoons have been collected in several books, including 'The Age of Tandberg' (1981), 'Tandberg Draws the Line: The Second Age of Tandberg' (1982), 'Tandberg's Age of Consensus' (1984) and 'The Ageless Tandberg' (1994).

Poster by Ron Tandberg

Outside of his cartoons and comics, Tandberg was also well known for his public service advertisements. In 1984 he illustrated the cover of a brochure about sex discrimination, 'Putting the Sex Discrimination Act Into Practice' by the Human Rights Commission. In 1989 two of his cartoons were used to illustrate the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia. He created a safe sex advertising poster, made in commission for the National AIDS Education Council. It featured the slogan "If it's not on, it's not on", referring to condom use. In 1991 Tandberg furthermore illustrated Paul Lyneham's book 'Political Speak. The Bemused Voters' Guide To Insults, Promises, Leadership Coups, Media Grabs, Port-Barrelling and Old-Fashioned Double-Speak' (1991). Together with Michael Carr-Gregg he collaborated on 'Real Wired Child' (2007), a book on how to raise children in the Internet Age.

Cartoon by Ron Tandberg

During his final years Ron Tandberg suffered from oesophageal cancer. By December 2017 his condition had worsened so much that he quit drawing fresh cartoons and instead gave his editors a series of drawings he made several months earlier. They all centered around his illness and Death lurking around the corner. As macabre as they were brave, the drawings continued to appear in The Age until Tandberg eventually passed away in January 2018 at the age of 74. Premier of Australian province Victoria Daniel Andrews paid tribute to his passing and said: "Ron Tandberg could say in a pixel what the rest of us could hope to express in an entire story." Other politicians to praise the late cartoonist were Matthew Guy and Ted Baillieu. His work was an influence on Cathy Wilcox, Peter Nichols and Alan Moir. All cartoons Tandberg drew in 2017, including the ones about his illness, will receive a posthumous release in book form as 'A Year of Madness' (2018).

Cartoon by Ron Tandberg

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