16th Nov, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 53
Lot 53 - David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930-2018)


David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930-2018)
Hillbrow, 1973, The Housepainter's Wife

vintage gelatin silver print on fibre based paper

Artwork date: 1973
Signature details: signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse

Estimated at R120,000 - R180,000


vintage gelatin silver print on fibre based paper

Artwork date: 1973
Signature details: signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse

image size: 30 x 24 cm; sheet size : 38 x 30 cm


The collection of the late Paul Alberts.


A doyen of South African photography, David Goldblatt produced an unparalleled body of work within the city of Johannesburg, where he lived for 50 years. The artist began hitchhiking from his hometown of Randfontein to Johannesburg when he was just eighteen years old – exploring the city through photographing it. The artist’s first crucial subject, his unceasing images of the metropolitan reveal changes in the city during and post-apartheid and his documentation has become an incomparable archive.

In the early to mid-1970s, over 20 years after first hitchhiking into the city, Goldblatt turned his camera to the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Hillbrow. Hillbrow of the 1970s was a buzzing community: a 1960s building boom ushered in a large number of high rise apartment developments, making the area a white-designated hub for young families and urban elites alike, with offices, cafes, shopping and dense housing all within the bustling city proper. Goldblatt’s images from this time are not documentary street scenes, but rather masterful portrait studies: the city documented through its people. These works are careful and nuanced observations of individuals who are clearly at ease with the photographer and, consequently, are more sitter than subject: autonomous, self-possessed and belonging wholly to the complicated political and cultural moment they inhabit.

In 1973 David Goldblatt completed 3 images of the house painter’s family; The house painter and his family. Hillbrow 1973, A house painter at home. Hillbrow 1973 and the current lot, Hillbrow, 1973, The Housepainter’s Wife. Aspire Art successfully brought, The house painter and his family and A house painter at home, to market in June 2021 and February 2020 respectively. This is however the first time that the compelling portrait of a woman – the housepainter’s wife – will be offered at auction, presenting collectors with a unique opportunity to acquire the rarely seen photograph.

LEFT: David Goldblatt, The house painter and his family. Hillbrow 1973

RIGHT: David Goldblatt, A house-painter at home, Pretoria Street, Hillbrow,
January 1973.


  • This photograph was hand-printed by David Goldblatt in his darkroom and forms part of a collection of prints gifted by Goldblatt to fellow photographer Paul Alberts.
  • On the reverse are inscriptions – notes and numbers – which were possibly the Golblatt’s records including information such as exposure times, indicating that this print may have been the original test proof where Goldblatt recorded information from the printing process.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, Johannesburg Art Gallery; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Jewish Museum, Cape Town; Art Institute of Chicago; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Getty Center, Los Angeles.

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