Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it. ” – Andy Warhol

Thank You Pigcasso and Goodbye

Thank You Pigcasso and Goodbye

Below is an email I received from Joanne Lefson, the caretaker of Pigcasso on March 17, 2024 announcing the passing of Pigcasso the painting pig. 

THANK YOU, Pigcasso.

Since Pigcasso’s passing on 1 March 2024, there has been much on which to reflect and feel. I apologize that it has taken so long to send this to you – our dearest supporters of her incredible art and mission. So now is the time – I share with you how it was for Pigcasso in the final months of her life, my infinite gratitude to her, and what plans lay ahead at the sanctuary and beyond as we continue to uphold and celebrate Pigcasso’s legacy.

As someone who lives ‘Carpe Diem’, I always knew that the day would arrive where Pigcasso would leave us. As we all know, nothing lasts forever and as such, Pigcasso and I made the most of every moment together. I cherished her and gave thanks for her every day; grateful that ‘just a pig’ could inspire millions of people to awaken their compassion for farmed animals through painting – and that’s what we did- at every moment where she was able and willing.

joanne lefson pigcasso painting pig sanctuary barn

For those of you who have read the book, you may recall that I thought that Pigcasso wouldn’t live beyond 2022. At that stage, she was struggling to stand up and was displaying symptoms of severe arthritis – a condition inherited from all the genetic manipulations and modifications that farmed animals are subjected to on today’s ‘farms’.  Miraculously, Pigcasso recovered – and some of her greatest works were completed in 2023. It was a busy year abroad too. I opened her Exhibition in China, appeared in a US TV show, and launched the book in London. But upon returning in late August 2023, I sensed Pigcasso had taken another turn for the worse. She was struggling to stand up; she had lost her zest for life – and the paintbrush.

I will now quote from the additional Chapter that I recently wrote for the next print run of Pigcasso’s book– and then conclude with some final words to all of you.

“The book launch took place on 7 October 2023. And that very morning was the last time in Pigcasso’s life that she was able to stand up and walk on her own, without the assistance of my team at the sanctuary and a special harness. The weeks and months that followed were nothing short of heartbreaking. Each day, we’d have a team of men arrive like clockwork to lift her up and walk her to the mud bath, and then reverse the procedure in the evening.

When the vet had diagnosed her as suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, he had emphasized that it was crucial to get her moving at least twice a day and that’s exactly what we did. But as time went on, the walks became shorter and noisier. Her hind legs, now completely lame, dragged along the ground, so we had special boots made to protect her skin. The vet reassured me she wasn’t in pain but that was hard to believe, judging by the way she reacted each time we lifted her. It was challenging to watch, but from my point of view, Pigcasso’s life was just as meaningful as it had always been. All we could do was let nature run its course, and I found solace in knowing that she would be able to continue for many more months if she didn’t get any worse. But she did.

I would always call her name when I walked into the barn, and she’d grunt away in response. It touched my heart so deeply – her acknowledgment – and I knew that in her own way, she was telling me that she wished she could still paint and that everything was back to normal. But in early February 2024, her right front leg started to buckle, just as her hind legs had done at the start of her steady decline. Picking up Pigcasso with her weight on her front legs had been a manageable scenario, but her loss of balance at the front meant more hands were needed now and her comfort during this process was significantly compromised. And as we entered the last week of February, still trying to adjust to a new routine, her left front leg buckled as well, and we simply ran out of options.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Dr Jane Goodall, a big fan of Pigcasso’s, was on her way to Cape Town. She was going to spend a Saturday at the sanctuary, to inspire young people in the area, meet her pig idol for the first time and host a relatively intimate fundraising event at the barn, which had sold out in a heartbeat. It was a massive moment, but if Pigcasso was in pain, we would let her go. This would never be up for discussion: her welfare would always reign supreme. We got hold of Dr Goodall, explained the situation and she of course concurred.

With just three days to go until Super Saturday, I went into the barn and called out to Pigcasso. Silence. I walked up to her stall and found her lying there completely still, and completely unresponsive to my calls. My heart sank. She was suffering and it had to end. We gave Pigcasso some painkillers and booked the vet for the first available slot. But he wouldn’t be needed.

When Clint called me early on that fateful Friday morning, I knew before he had even said anything. My beloved Pigcasso had passed away in her sleep during the night. Knowing she was living on borrowed time was one thing; knowing she was gone was another. I wept over my journal. I felt numb. One of the most outrageous and significant chapters of my life had officially come to a close. ‘Be grateful you had the moment,’ I whispered to myself. ‘Be grateful you had the moment.’ My eyes welled up with tears when I thought about what she had had to endure, and how bravely and courageously she had faced the fight right until the very end. Pigcasso had wanted to live and keep on living – a testament to all animals in today’s factory farms. They all want to live, and each one is worthy of our empathy and compassion. It is our duty to help them, not our choice.

It was a cruel set of circumstances. Friday was always going to be ‘Get ready for Dr Goodall’ day and there was no time for me to cry, let alone run away and hide. I had to show up and get the place ready, and I can honestly say it was one of the hardest days of my life. It would have been even harder had it not been for the extraordinary team at the barn. I really don’t know how I would have coped without them, especially in those last few months. They were invaluable. Every day, seven days a week, for weeks that turned into months, they all arrived every morning and evening. Every time they picked up Pigcasso, they also picked up my spirits and for that I am eternally grateful. But not even they could dull the edge of this particularly painful moment in time.

jane goodall joanne lefson pigcasso painting pig

When Jane Goodall finally pulled up at the sanctuary the following morning, we embraced for what seemed like forever: a silent recognition of Pigcasso and loss. Not only my loss, but also the loss of an iconic ambassador for animals, so much needed in today’s world.

The day flew by, as did the event that evening. I tried to keep it together, but my head felt like a wet sponge and I didn’t know where to turn, what to say or where to be at any given moment. I do remember Jane giving one of the most eloquent speeches I have heard in my life, and it began with these simple words: ‘I would not be here had it not been for Pigcasso.’ I cannot think of a greater compliment and a more fitting eulogy. A perfect moment, ironically.

Thank You Pigcasso and Goodbye

Pigcasso’s passing was picked up by the world’s media, resulting in a massive surge in demand for her remaining works, and apart from anything else, I was grateful to have something to focus on and prevent me from slipping into deeper sadness. It took weeks and weeks to pack up the paintings and send them out all over the world. From Turkey to Australia, Brazil to Canada, her life has touched millions, and her legacy will live on and inspire many generations to come. The sanctuary is in good standing too, thanks to its most famous resident, and many more animals will get their chance to shine in the sun.

The exhibitions will continue, a documentary film is in the works, and I have an idea for an international show titled Animalis, a retrospective showcasing the greatest animal-themed works that Pigcasso made in her incredible lifetime. And did I mention that Dr. Goodall also loved the idea of setting up a Pigcasso Academy – a way of giving more animals a chance to paint and inspire the world – right here at the farm? She even offered to open it and get it going global! Time will tell.

I had Pigcasso cremated, and her ashes sit on top of the cupboard in my barn loft. I know she’s gone, but having the last physical memory of her close by is somehow comforting and warming: a constant reminder that her spirit and legacy will live here forever. I’ve also had the very first painting she ever painted, In the Beginning, framed, along with her final painting, Standing Ovation. They now hang in the barn – her first painting, so small and simple, and her final artwork, a complex and captivating three-metre-long masterpiece. They tell Pigcasso’s story and demonstrate just how much she developed as an artist and why she grew up to become the greatest animal artist in world history. So, as I sit back and take a deep breath, I am overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude and good fortune. Oscar and Pigcasso have been the source of all my inspiration. And we, hopefully, have inspired you.”

I didn’t conclude with THE END (as many writers do) for Pigcasso’s legacy is just beginning. She was a one-of-a-kind, a unique stand out in a saturated world – and as far as we can see, there’s no one to step into her big hooves yet. She painted for all the right reasons; her Masterpieces exuded passion and purpose – and it is my commitment to remain a true custodian of her legacy – and I do so with joy, respect, and gratitude. I also want to take this moment to acknowledge all of you. Thank you all for supporting Pigcasso and her incredible rise to ‘art hood’; your support was as important to us as every stroke she made on her canvas.

For me, I remain so fortunate to have known such an intelligent, gentle, kind and creative individual for almost 8 years. I couldn’t have written these in the stars – who could have? What a life, what a journey, what a moment in time.

To conclude, I leave you with one of my favorite paragraphs in the book.

“As for me, I’m still looking for answers to that question written in the stars (aren’t we all?). But I’m a lot closer now than ever before. And like any good hero on a journey from awakening to enlightenment, I wouldn’t have gotten there without a mentor: a worldly-wise figure with mystical powers to prepare me for the journey and the battle to come. Bilbo Baggins finds Gandalf, Harry Potter needs Dumbledore and without Mr Miyagi the Karate Kid would just be another kid. And me? Well, that’s easy. I just had a pig. A pig called Pigcasso.” – Joanne Lefson


Read more about Pigcasso here.  All proceeds from the sale of Pigcasso’s artwork support all animals and caretakers at the Farm Sanctuary, South Africa.

I enjoyed representing your art, Pigcasso, RIP.

Picture of Kelly Shaeffer

Kelly Shaeffer

Kelly’s Collectibles and Online Art Gallery connects emerging, national and international artists with art collectors. Whether you are an artist or a consignor looking to sell your art or collectibles, we can get your items sold using the Ebay platform that is visible to millions of global collectors.
Picture of Kelly Shaeffer
Kelly’s Collectibles and Online Art Gallery connects emerging, national and international artists with art collectors. Whether you are an artist or a consignor looking to sell your art or collectibles, we can get your items sold using the Ebay platform that is visible to millions of global collectors.

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