Joseph Christian Goodhart (1875-1952) was born at Gilberton, a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia, on 9 February 1875. He was the eldest son of Joseph John Goodhart (1837 1887)—a second generation Adelaide resident—and Emma Elizabeth nee Smith (1845 1888). Following the death
of his father in 1887 and mother the following year, Goodhart was forced to curtail his secondary studies at St Peter’s College, Adelaide. The fourteen year old youth was employed by the John Martin department store where he worked as a window dresser, display artist and ticket
writer. On 10 April 1900 J. C. Goodhart, draper of Port Pirie, married Alice Mary Humphris (1870 1955). Soon after their marriage the couple moved to Broken Hill where Goodhart worked for the drapers Boan Brothers, carrying out similar duties to those he had performed at John
Martin’s. By 1914 he had saved enough money to begin his own business, Goodhart’s Drapers in Argent Street, which flourished until 1938 when the property was sold to the chain store group Woolworths.
By this time J. C. Goodhart had left Broken Hill. In 1936 he had moved to Victor Harbour, South Australia, where he built a studio where he painted, etched, carved and modelled sculpture until his death on 16 April 1952. His widow died three years later on 21 January 1955. Although
Goodhart was interested in art from his youth, the responsibility of providing an income for his brothers and later his own family limited his access to formal art training. He briefly attended the Adelaide School of Design in 1890 (probably as part of his display and ticket writing training)
and again in 1903. Two years later he is reported to have won the gold medal for window dressing awarded by the magazine Draper of Australia. During the next two decades Goodhart spent his spare time painting, working both in oil and watercolour. It was not until the mid 1920s that
he made his first etchings.
In March 1925 the Adelaide artist John Goodchild visited Broken Hill to make drawings and watercolours of the region for his forthcoming exhibition. It was at this time that Goodhart had just received his “. . . first parcel of copper, chemicals and other gear necessary to make a start
[in etching] . . . That night, they unpacked the parcel and set to work. Mr Goodchild, taking a piece of copper, laid the etching ground, drew a picture, bit the plate, and in the early hours of the morning they pulled a proof with the help of the domestic mangle.”
Goodhart’s earliest prints were of his immediate Broken Hill environment. Although the art critic William Moore, writing for Art in Australia in 1926, noted that the subjects Goodhart drew in Tasmania (while visiting his daughter) “were more picturesque, it was his mining
prints, being a novelty as regards subject [that are] particularly interesting.” Moore had seen these prints at J. C. Goodhart’s only formal exhibition, held at Anthony Hordern’s Fine Art Gallery, Sydney in 1926. Success came quickly. The National Gallery of Victoria purchased the
mining subject Klondyke Propty. Mine from his 1926 exhibition, and two more prints in 1930. The Art Gallery of South Australia acquired The Poppet Head and Molle Street Bridge, Hobart in 1928; also in that year Goodhart was elected a member of the Australian Painters Etchers’
Society with whom he exhibited regularly until 1936. Goodhart’s position amongst Australian printmakers was assured when in 1928 Campbell Dodgson, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum wrote informing him of his interest in a group of five prints, following
which, in April 1929, two of his etchings The Poppet Head and Klondyke Propty. Mine were exhibited at the Paris Salon.
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