Born in Melbourne in 1942, Larry Pickering is one Australia’s best loved and most influential cartoonists. For well over a decade Pickering delighted viewers with superbly illustrated and side-splittingly funny cartoons about the trials and tribulations of our nation’s leaders.
A self-taught artist, Pickering privately drew five cartoons a day, seven days a week, for two years—finally gaining exposure for his work in a most unusual way. Employed as a proof reader for The Canberra Times, each day Pickering would pin a cartoon to the door of the men’s toilet. With a captive audience it was not long before the then Editor of The Canberra Times, John Allan, gave him the break he needed in 1971—on the eve of one of the most dramatic and colourful periods of Australian politics.
Pickering’s cartoons are synonymous with memories of the Whitlam and Fraser years. The characters he created became living entities, carrying out their performances on Pickering’s superbly detailed black and white stage.
Pickering retired gradually from cartooning. Having worked for The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and The National Times, Pickering’s cartoons could still be found in The Bulletin during the mid-1980s. By this time Pickering’s focus had shifted, and although he still produced his enormously popular Pickering’s Playmates calenders, he was primarily occupied with growing tomatoes and later, horse racing.
Yet the popular revival of political cartoons that began in Australia during the 1970s owes much to the significant contribution made by Larry Pickering. He had a tremendous influence on the world of Australian cartooning and his cartooning contemporaries—including Geoff Pryor, who cites Pickering as one of his early stylistic models. The place of cartooning in Australia today owes much to the work of Larry Pickering.