The Australian’s editorial cartoonist Bill Leak has died in hospital of a suspected heart attack.
The publication confirmed his death and posted tributes to their ‘irreplaceable’ staff member.
Editor in Chief Paul Whittaker described Leak as “a giant in his field of cartooning and portraiture and a towering figure for more than two decades” at the newspaper and said he was “simply irreplaceable”.
“We will miss him dreadfully and our hearts go out to his wife Goong, his stepdaughter Tasha and his sons Johannes and Jasper,” Whittaker said.
Leak won nine Walkley awards and 19 Stanley awards for his work, and was twice awarded News Corp’s cartoonist of the year.
The Australian reported it was only on Wednesday night that Leak launched his latest book.
— The Australian (@australian) March 10, 2017
Whittaker said at that event he “spoke with his trademark wit and wisdom to a room filled with friends, colleagues and fans, all of whom wished him well and expressed great appreciation of his strength and his unwavering commitment to free speech and true Australian values”.
Leak made headlines around the world last year for his satirical works, including one that depicted an indigenous father holding a can of beer and asking a policeman his own son’s name.
— Heath Boyce ?? (@caligula00) February 4, 2017
At the book launch, Leak called political correctness “a poison that attacks the sense of humour” that “infects an awful lot of precious little snowflakes”.
His speech was gatecrashed by Barry Humphries’s character Sir Les Patterson, who said Leak was “Australia’s Rembrandt, our Warhol”.
Bill Leak appeared in a video, published by The Australian, talking about his inspiration for his art.
A comment left on the YouTube post echoes Barry Humphries’ sentiments.
“Oh Bill, someday you’ll recognised as our latter day Brett Whitely, after you die of course.”