George French Angas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

George French Angas, c. 1870
George French Angas
George French Angas

(1822-04-25)25 April 1822
Died4 October 1886(1886-10-04) (aged 64)

George French Angas (25 April 1822 – 4 October 1886), also known as G.F.A., was an English explorer, naturalist, painter and poet who emigrated to Australia. His paintings are held in a number of important Australian public art collections. He was the eldest son of George Fife Angas, who was prominent in the early days of the colonisation of South Australia.


He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, the eldest son of George Fife Angas, prominent in the establishment of the new colony of South Australia. Despite showing remarkable talent in drawing, he was placed in a London business house by his father. He left on a tour of Europe and in 1842 published his first book, "Rambles in Malta and Sicily". As a result of this experience, he turned his back on the world of commerce, and directed his training towards a study of natural history, anatomical drawing and lithography. Embarking on his travels, he was soon to find his acquired skills extremely useful.

Angas painted some of the earliest views of South Australia. Arriving in Adelaide in January 1844, he joined Sir George Grey on an expedition into the interior. He soon began an extensive series of journeys to the Murray River lakes, Barossa Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula and the South East, presenting his impressions of the newly established colony – its inhabitants, landscape, and its flora and fauna (flowers, plants and stuff). Following a trip to New Zealand he returned to South Australia in 1845 and travelled to Port Lincoln. In the following year, 1846, he returned for a short while to England, accompanied by a young Māori man, Hemi Pomara,[1] who was exhibited alongside Angas's paintings at the Egyptian Hall in London.[1]

Angas' next journey in 1846 was to South Africa, where he spent two years in Natal and the Cape, working on a series of drawings and watercolours which were published in 1849 as The Kafirs Illustrated. In this book were views of Cape Town, Durban, Wynberg, Genadendal, Paarl and Somerset West, and plates depicting the local ethnic groups such as the Khoikhoi (then referred to as Hottentots), Cape Malays and Zulus.

Angas married Alicia Mary Moran in 1849, the marriage producing four daughters.

In 1853 Angas was appointed to a position at the Australian Museum in Sydney, eventually becoming Director and staying a total of seven years. Angas was in Sydney when gold was first discovered near Bathurst, New South Wales. Travelling there to record the gold diggings he executed a number of drawings of the scenes that he found. These were published in Sydney and subsequently in London. Angas was represented at the 1855 Paris exposition with five other Australian artists including Conrad Martens, Frederick Terry and Adelaide Ironside, the first time Australian artists had been represented at a major overseas display.[2] Angas returned to South Australia in 1860, and finally went back to England in 1863. Angas published several books on Australia and Polynesia as well as illustrating accounts of exploration by John McDouall Stuart and John Forrest, and contributed significantly to conchology with his descriptions and illustrations.[3]

Angas died in London on 8 October 1886.

Genadendal Mission Station, South Africa (c. 1849)

Collections and legacy[edit]

The African antelope, Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii), was named in his honour.[4]

Many of Angas's original watercolours are held in National Library of Australia, as well as in a number of South Australian institutions: Art Gallery of South Australia; University of Adelaide; South Australian Museum; and Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. The State Library of New South Wales has four letters written by Angas – the first is addressed to his publisher, Joseph Hogarth, and is dated 31 January 1848, requesting that two drawings be released to the lithographer James William Giles (1801–1870), and for an advance in payment. The second, dated 28 July 1849 discusses problems experienced by overseas subscribers in the delivery of Kafirs Illustrated. The third letter instructs the publisher to send a plate from his sister's copy of Kafirs to the bookbinder, Mr Proudfoot, in George Street. The final, dated 10 February 1875 is addressed to Stephen William Silver (1819–1905), the London shipping merchant and book collector, and deals with matters relating to the Zoological Society and the Royal Geographical Society.[5]

From August to late November 2020, the State Library of South Australia exhibited his 1848 folio South Australia illustrated,[6] which is also available online.[7]


Nudibranch molluscs described by Angas[edit]

Species of nudibranch described by Angas include:[3]


  1. ^ a b deCourcy, Elisa; Jolly, Martyn (1 July 2020). "How we uncovered the oldest surviving photograph of a Māori person". The Spinoff. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  2. ^ Merle Peters, 'Terry, Frederick Casemero (1825–1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, MUP, 1976, pp 256–257.
  3. ^ a b Angas, George French. 1864. Description d'espèces nouvelles appartenant à plusieurs genres de Mollusques Nudibranches des environs de Port-Jackson (Nouvelle-Galles du Sud), accompagnée de dessins faits d'après nature. Journal de Conchyliologie, series 3, 12:43-70, pls. 4-6.
  4. ^ Tragelaphus angasii – Nyala, Taxonomy and General Characteristics,
  5. ^ Letters by George French Angas relating to the work `The Kafirs illustrated', 1848–1875, State Library of New South Wales.
  6. ^ "South Australia illustrated". State Library of South Australia. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  7. ^ "South Australia Illustrated". State Library of South Australia. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  8. ^ The Kafirs Illustrated, Historical artwork, The Campbell Collections of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]