National Library of Australia

Michael Leunig’s Street Football

Michael Leunig (b.1945)Street Football c.1990

watercolour, gouache and crayon on paper; 21.0 x 36.3cm

Pictures Collection, H98.98⁄1

Gift of Helga Leunig, 1996

State Library of Victoria
Street Football c.1990

Once upon a time in the winter streets of Melbourne, a game of kick-to-kick between boys of a certain age was a common sight—indeed, a rite of passage.

This watercolour by Michael Leunig (born 1945 in Melbourne) captures the scene perfectly: sun setting low over the suburbs, boys dressed in the colours of their Australian Rules clubs (in this case Hawthorn and Essendon), and the footy tumbling end over end through their adolescence.

One of Australia’s best loved cartoonists, and one of its better known humanists, Leunig’s style is immediately recognisable. His touch—especially his use of ducks, dogs, birds and thoughtful men and women—can be gentle and poignant.

His nib can also cut a swathe through the shrouds of public relations and government obfuscation, slicing to the very heart of an issue. Leunig believes his role is clearly defined. Cartoonists, he says, are the permanent opposition to the government of the day: they are outsiders, challengers, a difficult presence.

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