GEORGE FRENCH ANGAS (1822-1886)
'SOUTH AUSTRALIA ILLUSTRATED'

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George French Angas was the 4th son of George Fife Angas, ‘Merchant of Newcastle on Tyne’, and his wife Rosetta French, a Gentleman’s daughter from Essex. George Fife Angas had been in charge a family coach-building factory and associated shipping and mercantile interests. In 1824 he established a shipping business of his own based in London. In 1833 he founded the Provincial National Bank. He was also energetic in the cause of emancipating slaves in the West Indies, so the news of the foundation of a new colony in southern Australia which was to be a ‘Paradise of Dissent’ (no established church) and free settlers no convicts, appealed to Dissenters like himself while giving opportunities for profitable investment of capital. This was the background into which George French was born, and even as he was the eldest son and expected to follow in his father’s footsteps devoting his life to commerce, he showed early and enduring talents as a natural history artist, especially of the marine life by his boyhood home of Dawlish in Devon. After 4 years of Tavistock Grammar School he renounced his life in the counting house feeling, "...I was not born to sacrifice every high thought and feeling at the shrine of Mammon: I longed for the natural world...". By this time the Colony of South Australia was established thanks very much to his father’s financial support through the South Australia Company. It seems inevitable that George French was drawn to this little known part of the globe to record its environment and the early stages of a unique colony in a publication called South Australia Illustrated which was to be financed by subscribers. When Angas arrived in the colony on January 1, 1844 on the Augustus, it was 8 years old and partially explored. Within days he was on the first of many explorations which eventually took him up through the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Barossa Ranges, (where on 28 Feb 1844 he recorded the opening of the Free Chapel of Angaston, the village of English and German settlers named in honour of his father), south down the Fleurieu Peninsular, and joined the expedition of Governor Grey to the unknown South-East in April 1844. He recorded the landscape and the indigenous inhabitants, as he went, in watercolours which were later sent back to London to be lithographed by John West Giles. In June 1845 Angas exhibited his watercolours in Adelaide, after returning from further adventures in New Zealand that formed the basis of New Zealanders Illustrated. It was the Colony’s first one-man exhibition and caused quite a stir of interest and were highly praised, as they were in Sydney a month later. Back in London in March 1846, a grand exhibition opened in the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, of over three hundred paintings as well as ‘costumes, utensils, weapons and implements belonging to Australians and New Zealanders’. Angas described the paintings as done 'entirely on the spot, from Life and Nature' and claimed that they represented ‘the Natives, with their manners and customs,and the Picturesque Scenery...with unexaggerated truth and fidelity...’Angas was meticulous about his botanical, zoological and ethnographic details: 'indeed he is remarkable among early Australian artists for painting identifiable eucalypts, casuarinas, cabbage palms, waratahs and banksias, rather than vaguely English plants' In 1847 Angas travelled to Southern Africa to pursue the illustrations for the Kaffirs Illustrated. Recommended Reading:*George French Angas Artist, Traveller and Naturalist John Tregenza , Art Gallery of S.A., 1980.