Born: 25 April 1822, Newcastle on Tyne, England
Died: 4 October 1886, London, England
George French Angas was born to George Fife Angas (1789 – 1879) and Rosetta French (1812 – 1867), the fourth out of seven children and eldest son. He was educated in Essex and then at Tavistock Grammar, when upon completion of his studies took up employment in one of his father's businesses.
In 1841, after one year of employment, Angas set sail on a sketching tour of Malta and Sicily, publishing his results in 'A Ramble in Malta and Sicily in the autumn of 1841 Illustrated with sketches taken on the spot and drawn on stone by the author'. With a sense of adventure and interest in art, Angas took lessons from Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894), a natural history artist. In 1843, Angas sets sail again, but this time to the new Colony of South Australia and then to New Zealand. His watercolours were published as lithographs in 'South Australia Illustrated' and 'New Zealand Illustrated', and his observations in 'Savage Life and Scenes in Australia and New Zealand : being an artist's impressions of countries at the antipodes', in 1847. In 1846 Angas embarks upon another sketching tour in South Africa, publishing them in 'Kafirs Illustrated' in 1849. On 27 December 1849, Angas marries Alisha Moran and later have four children. Soon after the newly married couple return to the colony and Angas heads to the gold rush in New South Wales first and then Victoria in 1851. The watercolours were subsequently published in 'Six Views of the Gold Field of Ophir, At Summerhill and Lewis' Ponds Creeks; Drawn from Nature and on Stone' and 'Views of the Gold Regions of Australia, drawn on the spot by G. F. Angus.'
To supplement his sporadic income as an artist, Angas also work in regularly paid employment that included: secretary and accountant of the Australian Museum; illustrating books; publishing for the Anglican Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; and Chairman of the Angaston Council.
Angas also collected specimens which he later described and donated. His results were published in the 'The Australian Zoologist'. He also became an honoured fellow of the Linnean, Royal Geographic and Zoological societies.
Angas dies at the age of 64 leaving his wife and 3 daughters an estate of 293 pounds plus pictures and books.
Many of the watercolours were either sold or distributed to family members. In 1902, James Angas Johnston, the son of Angas’s sister Rosetta, bequeathed his watercolours to the Board of Governors of the Public Library, Art Gallery and Museum. Initially the entire collection was in the custody of the Art Gallery but in 1912, the watercolours of ethnographic interest were transferred to the Museum. The South Australian Museum is the custodian for watercolours of South Australia (Series 2), Victoria (Series 4), New South Wales (Series 4 and 5) New Zealand (Series 6 and 7), New Caledonia (Series 8) and South Africa (Series 9). Included in the collection is the ST Gill watercolour (Series 4) and lithographs of South Australia, entomology and Lepidoptera (Series 3).
The finding aid is in progress with only the New Zealand Watercolours completed. For the remainder of the collection please contact the Archives Collection Manager.
In 2009, Lea Gardam, Archives Collection Manager organized a Museum Archive Internship for Eleazar Bramley of the Taupo Museum from 18 May to 12 June, with a view to ultimately repatriate copies of the originals. For this to take place, Eleazar was able to allocate the watercolours to the relevant New Zealand iwi (tribe). She then consulted with the relevant elders to determine culturally sensitive restrictions on any of the watercolours and to obtain permission to display images on the web. To date repatriation and determinations have been made by the Ngati Tuwharetoa Iwi.