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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.

Considering Persephone - Gay Bilson

2009
Leeanne Crisp

watercolour on paper (frame: 116.4 cm x 166.5 cm, sheet: 102.5 cm x 153.0 cm)

Gay Bilson (b. 1944), writer and former restaurateur, moved to Sydney from Melbourne with her partner, Tony Bilson, in the early 1970s (the couple were never married, but had two daughters, and Gay has long used Tony's surname). In 1973, the couple opened Tony's Bon Goût, the establishment, according to Mietta's guide, which began to flush the Labor Party out of clubs and pubs into 'trendy bistros'. Four years later the couple opened Berowra Waters Inn in a Glenn Murcutt-designed building on the Hawkesbury River, north of Sydney; Tony left the restaurant, and the relationship, and Gay continued with the venture. For some years before it closed in 1994, Berowra Waters was regarded as Australia's best restaurant. In 1995 Gay Bilson took over Bennelong, in the Sydney Opera House, but left the venture after three relatively unhappy years. She moved to McLaren Vale, South Australia in 1999. Her meditative memoir, Plenty, won the Age book of the Year Award and the Nita B Kibble Award in 2005.

Inspired by a quote from Plenty, which considered sensuality and mortality, Leeanne Crisp fused the essence of pomegranates with the image of her friend for this 2009 Archibald-winning portrait. As Crisp outlined in her entry, she segments her watercolours like 'strips of photographs or stills in film. The white space refers to the void'.

Purchased with funds provided by Jan and Gary Whyte, Brian and Barbara Crisp, Gloria Kurtze, Jonathon Mills and Lawsoft Pty Ltd 2011
© Leeanne Crisp

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Leeanne Crisp (age 59 in 2009)

Gay Bilson (age 65 in 2009)

Subject professions

Food and cooking

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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