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George French Angas1846 - 1846

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

George French Angas (1822–1886), artist and natural historian, published many illustrations of the plants, native animals and peoples of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The son of shipping magnate and banker, George Fife Angas, who had established the South Australian Company in 1836, he came to Adelaide in January 1844, after a failed attempt at his father’s profession and having already written a book based on his travels in the Mediterranean. Soon after his arrival, he set out on a series of journeys undertaken to select land for the South Australian Company, taking in the Murray Lakes, the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Barossa Valley and other parts of the south-east of the colony before embarking on a trip to New Zealand of several months’ duration. In South Australia again from early 1845, he accompanied Governor Sir George Grey on journeys to Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island, adding to his already substantial portfolio of drawings. He exhibited these in Adelaide in June 1845 – South Australia’s first art exhibition – and then left for Sydney, showing his work there also before departing for home. In 1846 some 300 of his colonial paintings were displayed at Piccadilly’s Egyptian Hall alongside bird specimens, costumes and artefacts, and an orphaned Maori teenager named James Pomara, whom Angas had adopted while in New Zealand in 1844. His volumes South Australia Illustrated, The New Zealanders Illustrated and Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand appeared in 1847; and in 1848, following an exhibition of works he created during a trip to South Africa, The Kaffirs Illustrated was published. Angas returned to Australia in 1850 with his wife, Maria, initially setting up a studio in Adelaide, but then trying his luck on the diggings in New South Wales and Victoria. From 1853 until 1860, Angas worked at the Australian Museum, undertaking cataloguing and research. After three years back in South Australia, Angas returned to England but continued to produce publications drawn from his antipodean experiences, among them Australia: A Popular Account of its Physical Features, Inhabitants, Natural History and Productions, With the History of its Colonization (1865). Later in his career, Angas wrote a volume of poetry and developed a considerable reputation for his knowledge of conchology, publishing many scholarly articles on the subject. A fellow of the Linnaean, Royal Geographical and Zoological Societies, Angas died in London in 1886.

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