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Global art sensation Pigcasso – a 500-kilogram pig known for painting with her nose and a paintbrush – has passed away in South Africa at the age of eight, after suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, her owner said on Wednesday.

In a statement to Caters News, Joanne Lefson – a 52-year-old artist and animal rights activist – announced that her creative partner had passed away after her symptoms rapidly worsened in September 2023. By early October, Pigcasso had lost the use of her hind legs due to calcification of the lower spine.

“There is much sadness that such an inspiring figure for welfare animals has passed, but we also celebrate a life well-lived and the profound difference she made,” Lefson said.

In 2016, Lefson rescued Pigcasso, who was then four weeks old, from a factory farm just before she was due to be sent to the slaughterhouse. From there, the pig was relocated to a sanctuary for rescued farm animals in Franschhoek, South Africa.

At one point, Lefson noticed that the pig would eat or destroy everything left in her stall, except for a paintbrush. Lefson then came up with the idea of teaching the swine to use the brush, and nurtured the animal’s interest in art.

“This is not, just a painting pig – far from it. This is a serious and highly creative collaboration where I work and engage through a ‘moving brush’ to develop dynamic artworks that inspire and challenge the status quo,” Lefson wrote on her website.

The project was dubbed ‘LEFSON + SWINE’ and its purpose was to emphasize humanity’s “disconnect and discord with our planet” and focus on “the ‘food’ we choose to eat and the detrimental effects that animal agriculture has on the environment and the welfare of animals.”

Over her artistic career, the pig sold over $1 million worth of her paintings, and set world records for becoming the first animal artist to hold a solo art exhibition, and selling the highest-priced artwork painted by an animal. 

Pigcasso has been described as “the most successful non-human artist in world history.” Now, her legacy “continues through the sanctuary and our mission to inspire a kinder, more sustainable world for all,” Lefson said.

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