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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.

Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, 2013 (cast 2016)

Willow Legge

cast bronze on granite base (including base: 49.0 cm x 19.0 cm depth 24.0 cm)

Gwyn Hanssen Pigott AM (1935-2013), self-described potter, gained her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Melbourne University, and as a student, became enchanted by the Kent collection of Chinese ceramics in the National Gallery of Victoria. Accordingly, she moved to Mittagong in 1955 to train with Ivan McMeekin, a devotee of Chinese pots, at Sturt Pottery. Not long after, she left for the UK, where she worked with leading potters, learning about local materials and small-scale production before establishing a studio in Portobello Road with her husband, Louis Hanssen, in 1960. Six years later, she moved to Acheres, France, where she set up her own studio; in 1974 she moved to Tasmania with her second husband, John Pigott, and they set up a studio there. In 1989 she moved to Netherdale, Queensland, and in 2002 to Ipswich. The National Gallery of Victoria mounted the retrospective Gwyn Hanssen Pigott: A Survey 1955-2005 in 2006. Hanssen Pigott’s international reputation was built on her exquisite still-life assemblages of refined, spare vessels in subtle colours and shapes. She is represented in all major Australian galleries. In her last decades she travelled and taught internationally, and held solo shows in Britain, Australia, the US, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Japan and Italy. She died while in London for a group exhibition at the Erskine, Hall & Coe gallery in Mayfair, which also included work by Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach.

Willow King writes: ‘I first met Gwyn in the early sixties when she would stay with us while block teaching at Farnham School of Art in England, now West Surrey College. Thereafter, whenever she was in England for one of her regular shows or teaching engagements she would stay with us in our home and became a very dear friend. However, because of the fleeting nature of her visits it was only during the final one that I finally decided it was high time I made a portrait of her when we were both approaching our eighties. Unfortunately I had to finish it posthumously because she suffered her final stroke before it was completed. Luckily I knew her very well and had also taken some good photographs.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2016
© Willow Legge

Accession number: 2016.53

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Willow Legge (age 79 in 2013)

Gwyn Hannsen Pigott (age 78 in 2013)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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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.