foto: William Edwin Pidgeon, Aiud - 1956 / Drepturi de autor: Peter Pidgeon (reproducere cu permisiune)

William Edwin Pidgeon la Aiud

Scurta vizită a artistului australian William Edwin Pidgeon, aka “Wep” la Aiud în anul 1956.

Bill Pidgeon’s career spanned from the late 1920s through to the 1970s. He started out in the newspaper industry and quickly forged a name in the local Sydney Press, known as “Wep”.

Working for Consolidated Press he became well known throughout Australia for his political cartoons, comic strips, illustrations and his covers 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 concentrate on painting and earn an income from commisioned portraits.  He ultimately went on to win Australia’s most prestigious prize for portraiture, The Archibald Prize, on three occassions. Only 5 other artists have exceeded this record, which he shares with Clifton Pugh.

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 participated in a handful of group exhibitions. Consequently, not many works have changed hands and since his death; awareness of his name has slipped from the visibility of the modern art world.

Bill Pidgeon (Wep) at the door leading under his home at Northwood in Sydney, Australia where he kept his pottery wheel and kiln, c.1962; from the archives of William Edwin Pidgeon (Wep), National Library of Australia, Accession No. PIC/20163
Invitation to Wep from the Romanian Institute for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries to visit Romania; 17 July 1956; from the archives of William Edwin Pidgeon (Wep), National Library of Australia, Accession No. PIC/20163

Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure: Wep travels behind Iron Curtain on cultural exchange

In 1956, acclaimed Australian artist, William Edwin Pidgeon (WEP) was issued with a visa for travel behind the “Iron Curtain” to Romania as part of a cultural exchange program. This series of posts includes extracts from letters he sent back home to his wife, Dorothy and son, Graham, describing his adventures and depicting the places, people and life as he witnessed them.

Wep left Sydney on September 22, 1956 with stopovers in Darwin, Singapore, Rome, Venice, Munich, and Vienna. He arrived in Budapest, Hungary on October 2nd, travelling to Bucharest in Romania the next day. He spent two weeks in Romania, returning to Vienna on October 18.

From Vienna, Wep traveled to Paris where he planned to stay with his old friend and journalist, Roley Pullen. He remained in Paris for for just over two weeks, then a similar amount of time in London, finally arriving back home in Sydney on December 2, 1956.

William Edwin Pidgeon paintings about Aiud

WEP also did some paintings based on his trip upon his return from Romania.

William Edwin Pidgeon painting about Aiud / Copyright: Peter Pidgeon (reproduced with permission)
William Edwin Pidgeon painting about Aiud / Copyright: Peter Pidgeon (reproduced with permission)

More informations about WEP (in english)
focus on Wep’s paintings and artwork
focus on Wep’s life

Peter, WEP’s son, words about his father’s journey to Romania

My father Bill Pidgeon (William Edwin Pidgeon also known as Wep) visited Romania in 1956. It was quite something back then as he had to get special permission to travel behind the ‘Iron Curtain’. He was invited by the Romanian Institute for Cultural Relations on behalf of the Romanian Government as part of a cultural exchange.

Over the years Wep’s photographs from that trip had become separated, mixed up and not stored in the best of conditions. I have endeavoured to bring the collection back together using his letters home to determine the chronology of events and retrace his route. In addition, I have utilised Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View to determine GPS locations of where most of the photographs were taken. These photographs including his letters and those from the Romanian Institute for Cultural Relations along with the rest of Wep’s archives are now held by the National Library of Australia.

In order to get to Bucharest, Wep had to transit through Budapest in Hungary. Romania left a significant impression on him but his trip was cut short as they had to get him out of the country and through Hungary to Wien in Austria before the Russians squashed the unrest that was arising in Hungary. He brought home many items; art books and records and even organised to host a series of radio shows on our local national radio station featuring some of the folk music he brought back.

During his trip Wep made sketches and notes and a number of paintings were completed upon his return. Two of these were situated in Aiud, an unplanned stop but clearly a town that caught his eye.

It has long been an ambition of mine to retrace my father’s footsteps at the same time of year and stay in the same hotels as he did. In May 2018 I did manage to realise part of that whilst on a guided tour of the Balkans visiting Bucharest and staying in the Athenee Palace Hotel as well as Brasov and the Aro Palace Hotel (former Carpatti Hotel) as well as Peles Castle. It was great recognising many of my father’s photographs and identifying a couple more and just getting a feel and sense of the spirit of the people and the locations. Hopefully one day I will be able to return and visit Aiud and more of Romania.

Peter Pidgeon, February 2019