The largest and most impressive series of portraits made of the South Australian Aboriginals during the colonial period.
George French Angas (1822-1886)
Painter, lithographer, engraver and naturalist, fourth child and eldest son of George Fife Angas, a merchant and banker. As the eldest son he was expected to join his father’s firm, but some months in a London counting house proved a disillusioning experience. In 1841 he took art lessons for four months from Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, a natural history painter and lithographer, and armed with this instruction set out to see the world. He began in the Mediterranean publishing, A Ramble in Malta and Sicily in the Autumn of 1841…….Illustrated with Sketches Taken on the Spot, and Drawn on the Stone by the Author, the following year.
Angas’s father had established the South Australian Company in 1836 and had large areas of land as well as banking interests in the province. George French sailed for South Australia in 1843 in the Augustus, arriving in Adelaide on 1st January 1844. Within days he had joined an exploring party selecting runs for the South Australia Company. They traveled through the Mount Lofty Ranges to the Murray River and down to Lake Coorong and Angas sketched views of the countryside, native animals and the customs and dwellings of the Narrinyerri people. Later he drew scenes on his father’s land – 28,000 acres in the Barossa Valley – and accompanied George Grey’s expedition to the then unknown south-east as unofficial artist.
In July 1844 Angas visited New Zealand. Guided by two Maoris, he traveled on foot and by canoe through both islands, painting portraits of Maoris and views.
Angas’s father died in 1879, leaving a vast estate from which George French received only a annuity of 1000 pounds. In 1884 he went to Dominica on a collecting expedition, finding shells, moths, butterflies and birds. Dogged by rheumatism and neuralgia during his last years, Angas died in London on 4 October 188
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