Skip to main content

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, trained as a librarian before moving 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'. In 1977 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 she left the venture after three relatively unhappy years. In 1999 she moved to McLaren Vale, South Australia, where she has cultivated a reputation for living contentedly alone. Her meditative memoir, Plenty, won the Age book of the Year Award and the Nita B Kibble Award in 2005. She is an intermittent contributor to The Monthly.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Jan and Gary Whyte, Brian and Barbara Crisp, Gloria Kurtze, Jonathon Mills and Lawsoft Pty Ltd 2011

Accession number: 2011.59

Currently not on display

Copyright image request form
Request a digital copy of an image for publication

Artist and subject

Leeanne Crisp (age 59 in 2009)

Gay Bilson (age 65 in 2009)

Subject professions

Food and cooking

© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery of Australia (NPGA) 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.

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