Obituary: Ron Stenberg, artist and former head of illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design

Ron Stenberg
Ron Stenberg
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Ron Stenberg, the former head of illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, has died aged 98.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1919, he became interested in art from a young age. At 12 Ron was accepted into the Elam School of Art in recognition of his exceptional artistic ability. Life at Elam was not all fun. There was Ron’s accident when a truck delivering coal to the drill hall ran over him. The accident had long-lasting effects, especially damage to his knees, resulting in pain and discomfort in later years.

Ron was called up in 1941 for National Service and quickly attained the rank of sergeant and became a mapping instructor attached to the Field Intelligence Unit.

After the war, Ron became a council member of the Auckland Society of Arts. In 1954 he went to Sweden, then Scotland, where he became Head of the Department of Illustration at Duncan of Jordanstone College, where he remained until his retirement in 1984.

There is no doubt that Ron was highly regarded as a hugely talented artist and dedicated tutor, and many of his students remained in contact with him up until his death. The University has a collection of Ron’s work on slides in the library, as well as paintings in its art collection.

During Ron’s 40 years in Scotland, he exhibited with the Royal Scottish Academy, The Royal Scottish Watercolour Society, The Glasgow Institute and the Royal Society of British Artists, London. He has work in the National Gallery of New Zealand and the Melbourne National Gallery. Solo and group exhibitions were held in Scotland, Sweden, London and New York.

Ron was military artist with the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch in 1968. He was commissioned to record the uniforms and weapons of the Battalion during its last days in Germany. Much of this work can be seen at Balhousie Castle in Perth.

Ron was a founding member of the Association of Illustrators (London) and for many years he was a book illustrator for the London Publishers and feature illustrator for the Scottish Daily Express.

He returned to New Zealand in the 1990s and continued to be active in his field of art, exhibiting regularly. Ron’s 1982 work, Two Auld Wifies, attracted much attention when it arrived at The McManus Museum in 2016. Ron launched an appeal to discover the identities of the people in the painting which he donated to the museum, shipping it from Auckland.

He believed the painting depicted a couple of old friends sitting chatting on a bench at the corner of Reform Street where they met every Friday afternoon. But, after the story appeared in Scotland on Sunday, the art curator at the museum was informed that the woman on the left of the picture was Janet Isles-
Denny, one of Dundee’s wealthiest women, who decreed in her will that her vast fortune be left in trust to promote the arts, heritage and disadvantaged in the city.

Ron is survided by his second wife, Carolyn, his sons, Derek and Lars, daughter Lorraine, and seven grandchildren.

Irene Donaldson