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William Pidgeon

In their own words

Recorded 1965

William Pidgeon
Audio: 2 minutes

Well, at [the] present moment I’m still painting portraits, most of them commissions. It means that you can be interested in people you are painting; doesn’t necessarily follow that you’re always interested in the particular job you’re doing, although you make the best of it you can. Some sitters are more sympathetic than others and if you get no co-operation from a sitter it makes it very heavy going. However, you try to make the most of the composition and take some other interest in it.

I think that my attitude to a portrait has to be reasonably objective, it’s impossible to get rid of the artist’s subjectivity altogether and necessarily one person sees another person in a slightly different light to what the next one would, and that does always condition your choice of position and your choice of light and your choice of angle and of expression that you’ll put on a sitter. Nevertheless, I still, in a portrait, like to get more information about the sitter than I do about the artist who painted it. I think the work can be a work of art and yet be reasonably objective.

But I’ve had the experience that if I put what I thought was a reasonably amiable expression on a person’s face and it seems to be an amiable person to me and the family accept that, to somebody else it’s a supercilious smirk just because they don’t like the person in any case, so that to the beholder all things are true. So that by this type of objectivity, you’re not completely bound down to the limitations of pure subjectivity which emphasises and underlines one person’s relation to the object at which he’s looking.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of William Pidgeon is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Audio source

National Library of Australia, Hazel de Berg collection

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William Pidgeon

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency