This site has been set up to promote awareness of the 20th Century Australian artist, William Edwin Pidgeon, aka “Wep”.

Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at the entrance to under his home at 85 Northwood Road where he kep his pottery wheel and kiln; Jan 1969
Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at the entrance to underneath his home at 85 Northwood Road where he kept his pottery wheel and kiln; Jan 1969

Bill Pidgeon’s career spanned from the mid-1920s through the 1970s.  He started out in the newspaper industry and quickly forged a name in the local Sydney press, known as “Wep”. In 1933 he helped create the dummy for The Australian Women’s Weekly with his friend and the magazine’s first editor, George Warnecke.  Working for Consolidated Press he became well known throughout Australia for his political cartoons, comic strips, illustrations, his covers and war paintings for The Australian Women’s Weekly, which are now collectables today.  However, Bill’s true passion was his painting and in January 1949 he resigned from Consolidated Press to focus on winning Australia’s most prestigious prize for portraiture, the Archibald Prize. Not only did he achieve that aim but he won the award three times. However, his earlier career always overshadowed the success of his painting with headlines such as “Cartoonist wins Archibald.”

In 1956 he was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes and underwent a total of six operations on his eyes to remove cataracts and ultimately his eye lenses.  By the 1970s he was deemed legally blind.  The difficulties he faced with his eyesight were always kept very private for fear of losing valuable commissions.

Shortly after Bill’s glaucoma diagnosis he was invited by the Romanian Government to visit Romania on a Cultural Exchange trip. It was his only trip overseas despite a yearning to see the works of the great masters of Europe since the late 1920s. In addition to Romania, Bill took the opportunity to visit Rome and Venice in Italy, Munich in Germany, Vienna and Budapest whilst in transit to Bucharest, Romania. His stay was cut short due to the pending threat of the Soviets quelling the uprising rebellion in Hungary. He spent an extended period in Paris, France catching up with an old colleague and then London, England. In order to travel behind the “Iron Curtain”, Bill had to get special permission from the Australian Government and as a consequence came under the scrutiny of the Australian Security Intelligence Office (ASIO) for the next three years as a potential Communist sympathiser.

Due to his failing sight, Bill completed his last portrait in early 1973. King Watson, Bill’s friend and editor of Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph asked him if he would be interested in standing in for their regular political cartoonist which he agreed to do between 1974-1975. In addition, he returned to art reviews for the Sunday Telegraph with a weekly column from 1974 to 1979.

Bill was never a commercial artist. He painted for the love of it and would rather give his works away than sell them.  He never had a solo exhibition and only ever participated in group exhibitions.  Consequently, not many works have changed hands and even though very well known during his life, since his death, awareness of his name has slipped from the visibility of the modern art world.

Peter Pidgeon

W.E. Pidgeon Biography

15 Replies to “About”

  1. Peter,
    Have had a brief look and want to read more!
    Fantastic that you have made such an effort with this website, what a wonderful way to capture and promote awareness.
    Well done!

  2. Peter,
    I too would like more time to check out your website and look forward to having a real good look, not just a 5 min glance.
    Kindest regards to you all

  3. Dear Peter,

    I saw your post on Flickr of an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 22nd of June, 1937. I too have the exact one which was addressed to my Grandmother and Great Grandmother. I’m currently trying to piece together my family history and wondered if you could shed any light on what the invitation was in regards to?

    Kind regards.


    1. Hi Robin,
      I have not researched this specifically at this stage. I would suggest that a search of British Newspaper Archive may reveal news items about the garden party. You could probably access this through your local library. I believe that garden parties are held regularly, perhaps annually and people in the know get invites. Not sure how Thirza got on the list. It may have been through some of her social contacts or through Australia House or maybe she simply applied. Try searching Trove also.

  4. Hi Peter
    Previously I noticed a sketch of my grandfather SGT AJ Wyatt MM from Atherton.
    That sketch appears to have been taken down.
    would you be willing to email me a copy of the sketch?
    I would like to give it to my father, who is aging.
    Steve Wyatt
    ex digger from 1 RAR and 5/7 RAR

    1. Hi Steve, that’s great you have confirmed who it is. I did some detective work a while ago and worked out that my father returned from his 1944 New Guinea trip via the Atherton Tablelands and that is where he must have met and completed the three sketches of the Military Medal men, your grandfather, Arthur James Wyatt being one of them. The one of Sgt Wyatt was always a favourite of mine. Dad had a real ability to capture a person’s character and I can imagine he was a nice bloke. I will email you privately about your request. Note that the blog post you refer to is still online as is the picture and its link to my Flickr Gallery http://wepidgeon.com/pidgeonpost/?p=3307
      The image is from a scan of a negative of a photo I took in 1986/7. The drawing was exhibited in “W.E. Pidgeon: War Paintings 1943 – 1945” at Bloomfield Galleries in 1988, catalogue listing #94. It was sold at that time so I am unable to obtain a better quality image now. I would really appreciate some background info on your grandfather and his service record if available. Is it digitised on the National Archives website? This might help add more to the story of the picture and its timeline. – Peter P

  5. Hello Peter,
    I chanced upon your blog while searching for old photos about Jesselton, Papar and Beaufort in wartime North Borneo. From Wep’s caricature of himself wearing a native hat, I knew he must be an accomplished artist. His sketches of Jeep train and Borneo people are so nostalgic of an era that is so consequential to the history and culture of Sabah. We are toying with the idea to publish some of his photos and sketches in a coffee table book about Sabah entitled “Sabah Maju Jaya” (Sabah Then & Now) expected for release in Q1 2017. Please let me know of your thoughts on this possibility. Thanks and Warm Regards – Joe Lau

  6. Hello Peter,
    My name is David Rollinson and I am researching the history of a house in Ashfield NSW known as ‘Elston Villa’. It’s on the corner of Alt and Julia Streets, not far from St John’s Anglican Church.

    There is a painting ‘Elston Villa, Ashfield 1894’ attributed to your father and sold at auction by Davidson auctioneers of Annandale in 2013. Apparently it had WEP inscribed on the back.

    Is this a painting known to you and if it is your father’s work, do you know what association he would have had with Elston Villa (which still stands today, 87 Alt St)

    Grateful for any info you may have.
    Thank you

    1. Hi David,
      I am aware of this painting as this is not the first time a similar query has been raised. The work is not by my father, William Edwin (not Edward) Pidgeon. My father signed his paintings either ‘wepidgeon’ or ‘pidgeon’. He signed his illustrations and cartoons ‘wep’. My father was born in 1909; the work was painted in 1894. I raised this issue with Davidson Auctions some years ago and I thought they had corrected their records online but unfortunately there are a lot of mirroring sites that propagate the original error and it is simply impossible to get rid of them. I have no idea who or what the ‘WEP’ on the back of this painting references.

  7. Hi Peter,
    I’m working on a project trying to find all the works (or at least images of them) that have been in the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes, for the 100th anniversary of the Archibald in 2021.
    Could you please contact me?
    Kind regards,

  8. Hi Peter,
    I’m writing a book on the history of recreational vehicles and would like to include a photo of the Jensen caravan used by Bill on his painting trips. Could you please contact me?
    Thanks, Andrew

  9. Hello, I cannot seem to find a contact page on this site, but my name is Mike Eckman and I write a film photography blog and I am working on a piece about old Kodak film formats.

    I would like to use an image of the early 35mm Kodachrome cassette you have here in this article:


    My site is non for profit and I will make no money off your image, but will give you full credit. Please let me know if this is OK.


    1. Hi Mike,
      The first two images on the post are mine of the roll of film I sent to Canada, the third image was from the processing company’s website at the time (Film Rescue International).
      Happy for you to use with credit – Photo: Peter Pidgeon 2016 or similar.
      Can you send me a link to your post when done?
      Peter Pidgeon

    1. Hi Stephen,

      The Late Captain W.G. Lawrence (1953) was possibly commissioned by the Merchant Service Guild. When the Art Gallery of NSW was trying to locate portraits for the centenary of the Archibald Prize, I informed them that I was not aware of its current ownership. I do not know if they had any further success in locating it, probably not.

      The Merchant Service Guild of Australia appears to cease to exist as of 1992.
      You may wish to enquire via either website if they have any knowledge of the archives and indeed the painting. To be honest, I would have thought that the family would have been offered the opportunity to acquire the work, if anyone knew who to contact of course – again, probably not.

      I research this sort of thing occasionally, as I would also like to know. If you ever have any success tracking it down, please let me know. It would be nice to get a new image of it rather than one where the colours of the negative have faded over the course of 70 odd years.


      Peter Pidgeon

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