It is an extraordinary story. Joe Pigott was busy building a reputation as a trustworthy builder when Pigott Construction was hired to build Brescia Hall. That magnificent “castle” is now known as Ursuline Hall. The project was completed in 1925.
Joe had another side – he was an art collector with a remarkably good eye. The same year he finished Brescia Hall, he purchased a painting from a 20-something commercial artist named Alfred Joseph Casson, who was exhibiting at the Canadian National Exhibition. It was an important step for the young artist, as he later recalled in a letter to Joe’s widow, Yvonne. “Like all young couples, money was short, but the important thing was the fact that [the painting] was bought by a prominent man. I was almost unknown at the time and the fact that the picture became part of the Pigott collection did wonders for me.”
Joe and Alfred stayed in touch and a few years later, Joe commissioned Alfred to paint Brescia Hall. Alfred, who became known as A.J. Casson, went on to fame as a member of the Group of Seven and was a leading contributor to the Group’s body of work.
The Brescia Hall painting hung in the Pigott Construction office until the company closed in the mid-90s. The painting found its way to Joe’s grandson, Bill . It hung in Bill’s law office for over twenty years.
In the 1990s, the painting was loaned to Brescia and featured on the front page of an annual report. Bill says that’s when he began to think that it belonged at Brescia. “The family believes that Joe and Yvonne Pigott would enthusiastically agree that A.J. Casson’s bold painting should go home to the building that Joe was honored to build nearly a century ago,” he says. He adds that his grandmother Yvonne was “a force in the family” who strongly supported her husband’s business endeavors. He believes that recognizing her through a gift at Brescia is appropriate.
The painting will be on exhibit during Brescia’s centenary celebrations.