‘Irreplaceable’: Ron Tandberg mourned by admirers

11 x Tandberg cartoons about his cancer for Insight story December 2017The late Age cartoonist Ron Tandberg “could say in a pixel what the rest of us could hope to express in an entire story”, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

His comments were among tributes that flowed for the legendary Tandberg, who lost his battle with cancer on Monday afternoon.

Many were from politicians who were the subjects of his sharp wit. Mr Andrews praised Mr Tandberg for his “honesty, humanity and humour”.

“He never held back in his honest mockery of the vain and the powerful – and lately, we were moved as he used his illustrative talents to take on the worst villain of all: cancer. We’ll miss this man – his simplicity, his clarity, his humanity. And his humour.”

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the state had lost one of its greatest cartoonists.

“Ron Tandberg is one of Victoria’s great and enduring cartoonists,” Mr Guy said. ‘He will be sorely missed.”

Former premier Ted Baillieu lauded Tandberg’s “brilliant mind and talent”.

“If he ran a distillery he would have made a fortune,” Mr Baillieu said. “Because he could distil anything and do it so brilliantly.”

Mr Baillieu said among his most prized possessions are two cartoons Tandberg drew for him just after he retired from politics.

“He was very generous to me, these two cartoons he did of his own volition,” he said.

11 x Tandberg cartoons about his cancer for Insight story December 2017

“They don’t mean much to anyone else, but they mean a lot to me. I was only looking at those cartoons last week and thinking how fantastic they were.”

Former Age employee and friend of more than 20 years, Nigel Henham, said Mr Tandberg was the “jewel of The Age’s crown”.

“He’s an n institution, a giant, who will be looked at as the greatest cartoonist ever in and he was quintessentially a Melbourne icon,” he said.

“He was a kind, gentle and thoughtful person with encyclopedic knowledge. He was never malicious, he didn’t have a malicious bone in his body, but he felt strongly about issues and he had this rare and brilliant knack for cutting through… not many people have that.”

Mr Henham said Mr Tandberg loved horses, owning and racing thoroughbreds, but he cared more about the welfare of his animals than he ever did about winning a race.

“That was just the kind of person Ron was,” he said. “He will be remembered as one of the all time greats of n journalism. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone, but we have all lost something really special today. There will never be another Ron.”

Child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said Tandberg was “irreplaceable”.

“So sad to hear of the great Ron Tandberg’s death. He graciously illustrated 4 of my books with wit, irony and compassion.”

Former long-time Age cartoonist John Spooner said he had witnessed Tandberg fighting for his ideas against editors who disagreed with him.

“He would get an idea for a cartoon in a matter of minutes. A lot of other cartoonists, all over the world, struggle for an idea. He was very, very quick, and he made people laugh.

“People loved his succinctness. He was pithy, he was right to the point. It didn’t matter what you’d think about his particular political stance on the subject, the fact was, no one ever misunderstood where Ron stood.”

He said there was a “wonderful time” for more than 10 years from 1975, when Spooner, Tandberg, Peter Nicholson and Michael Leunig worked in one room, with other desks reserved for Arthur Horner and Bruce Petty when they came in.

“I rang Ron two weeks ago, to say how sorry I was to hear [of his illness], and we both were reflecting on the fact that we had a wonderful time.”

Current Fairfax Media cartoonist Cathy Wilcox said she had followed Tandberg’s work since the early 1970s when she was a child. “That simplicity of character, of face and line, and punchline, that was the thing that he could do like nobody else.

“When I started to draw pocket cartoons for The Herald and The Age, his was so much of a genre, that what I would be asked to do by editors, would be to ‘do a Tandberg’.”

That meant “a small, pithy cartoon to go with a news article, that would encompass it”. Artistic perfection was secondary to the need to get a smart idea across.

“I’ve occasionally achieved the brevity of his, but he could always boil things down to its very essence, and remained really funny in his work until the very end.”

The open mouth: Jeff Kennett on the air with Neil Mitchell. Photo: Ron Tandberg

Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist Alan Moir tweeted: “I am shocked and saddened by the news of cartooning colleague Ron Tandberg’s death. He cartooned for the Melbourne Age since 1972, and I never read a cartoon that wasn’t witty or pithy. One of ‘s greatest ever, he won 11 Walkley Awards. Will be greatly missed.”

Tandberg’s former fellow Age cartoonist Peter Nicholson said: “Very very sad to hear Ron Tandberg died today. A colleague and friend with an ultra-sharp talent. I learnt so much from watching him work.”

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