A fugitive from the Nazis, Hilda Goldwag arrived in Scotland in March 1939. Her family were due to follow from Vienna six months later – on the day war was declared, September 3rd. They all died in the Holocaust – probably in Dachau in 1943.
Hilda eked out a meagre living, first as a domestic servant in a minister’s home in West Linton, then in an engineering works in Glasgow, until the end of the war. She then joined Friedlanders in Hillington, designing headscarves for Marks and Spencer – and using the artistic talent first spotted at an early age in her native city, and developed at art school there.
That talent got a chance to expand through necessity when Friedlanders lost its scarf contract, and closed down. Freelance design included book illustrations ( among them Collins edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses”) and she returned to painting, mainly in oils.
Much of Hilda Goldwag’s work inevitably and properly reflects the sadnesses which remained with her until her death two years ago a few months short of her ninety sixth birthday. And much of it shows her determination to get as much as she could from a life that she knew to hold so many uncertainties.
For years she was a familiar sight around Cowcaddens and Garnethill, where she lived for many years and then, with her supermarket trolley piled up with her painting materials, on the banks of the canal, near to her abode in Knightswood to which she had moved when the Great Storm of 1967 took the roof off her city centre tenement flat.
She escaped the city sometimes to Torrance and Kirkintilloch – taking her paints and board on the bus – and laying the wet finished, or almost finished artwork on the luggage rack.
A rare chance to see her dramatic paintings of people, of her beloved canal, of sombre moonlight and sad harlequins – and gloriously happy nudes portraying mirth, of wild young boys running and jumping, of trees and flowers and mountains and fields comes at Glasgow’s Hidden Lane Gallery, in Argyle Street, Finnieston (following the successful Margaret Watkins’ photographic exhibition just ended which welcomed almost three thousand visitors.)
One riveting image perhaps sums up the watchful young woman who arrived in Glasgow seventy years ago, peering through the slats of a Venetian blind, apprehensive but wanting to see what is there, on the outside and recording it in her own totally distinctive way.
The exhibition, the second in the series of ”Forgotten Women” is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm from Monday 1st March 2010.