Hilda Goldwag was born in Vienna in 1912. As an artistically gifted child she attended Art School in her native city and graduated in 1938 with distinction. With the growth of Nazism life became increasingly fraught for anyone of Jewish origin. She got a permit to “escape” to Scotland in 1939, and worked as a domestic servant in a manse in West Linton. Her family were due to follow in September 1939 – the day war broke out. All died in Dachau, including her four year old nephew.
During the war years she worked (as an enemy alien) in factory jobs.
Living in Hill Street, Garnethill, near the Glasgow Art School she had various art related jobs and soon took up painting again. She became a familiar sight with her easel and paints and brushes in the area, and her paintings began to appear in exhibitions. She moved to a low rise flat in Yoker/Knightswood after the Great Storm of 1968 took the roof off her city centre flat.
Painting had become a full-time occupation with solo shows in Greenock and Gourock in the 1970’s , in the Royal Glasgow Institute’s Kelly Gallery in Glasgow, and the Lillie Gallery in Milngavie in the eighties. A major exhibition of her work appeared at the University of Strathclyde’s Collins Gallery in 2005.
She painted until a year or two before her death in January 2008, trailing around the area – the parks and canal banks – with her gear stacked on a supermarket trolley. She ventured out to Kirkintilloch and other spots in bussing distance from Glasgow – returning with her large canvases or boards, the paint still wet, spread on the bus luggage racks.
When she died her little flat was stacked with paintings. Most of these reached auctions – for very successful sales. An exhibition of many of these was mounted at the Hidden Lane Gallery in Argyle Street in Finnieston, in 2010 and achieved considerable interest.
During the show a dustbin man came in to the Gallery and spoke to Gallery director Joe Mulholland. “Are you interested in drawings by Hilda Goldwag?” he enquired.
Mulholland was very interested. The dustbin man told him that he worked “with the Clennie” in the Yoker/Knightswood area and had known the old lady by sight, as she trundled around with her paints and paintings. When emptying the bins at the block of flats where she lived, he saw bags of what looked like interesting stuff among the rubbish. He opened them and found half a dozen sketch books and individual drawings.
“I thought it was a shame to have these destroyed and lost, so I took them home.l”
When he saw Hilda Goldwag’s name on the Hidden Lane Gallery window, it rang a bell. So he brought the sketches and drawings in. Many were simply studies for later paintings. Many were fine drawings able to stand by themselves.
The Gallery gave him a very substantial “reward” for his foresight and appreciation – but he wanted no personal recognition for saving the works. (and some of the painting materials: brushes, palette knives and scrapers) “I would get my books if my bosses found out I had kept these back from the trash”, he said.
The exhibition at the Hidden Lane Gallery shows dozens of these drawings, and the notebooks alongside a representative selection of Hilda Goldwag’s “people” paintings, since most of the drawings and sketches are of people.