George French Angas (1822–1886) was one of the 19th century’s outstanding colonial artists. As a young man in the 1840s, he journeyed to Australia and New Zealand, where he excelled at capturing the minute detail of plants and people, objects and landscapes. The bush was his studio—he captured these transient moments opportunistically in pencil sketches, before working them into fine watercolours and finally into lithographs. When Angas completed this remarkable series of expeditions and publications he was barely 27 years old.

Angas personified the archetypal travelling artist of the era, wielding his brush and pencil with imperial confidence. The result is a set of accurate, insightful images and descriptions of the new lands and peoples encountered by Westerners during the early 19th century.

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George French Angas, Port Lincoln from Winters Hill, 1845, Art Gallery of South Australia 0.621

During his visit to Australia and New Zealand, George French Angas completed 300 finely drawn watercolours, the basis for two magnificent volumes and a major exhibition in the heart of London.

His meticulous and sensitive portfolio transports us to the moment of his encounters with its peoples and landscapes.
—Exhibition curator Philip Jones

As the son of George Fife Angas, one of South Australia’s principal founders, George French Angas enjoyed a particular advantage. He was able to reach the frontiers of European expansion. Illustrating the Antipodes – both the book and the exhibition – traces his ‘journeys into the bush’, from his arrival in Adelaide in January 1844, aged just 21, to his return to England two years later.

The National Library's exhibition and accompanying book are the culmination of Philip Jones's decades-long research into the life and work of George French Angas.

The exhibition is presented in partnership with the South Australian Museum and is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians. The exhibition will travel to the South Australian Museum in 2022.

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Selected themes

Formation of an Artist

The skill of George French Angas became clear in his early childhood in England.

Arrival in South Australia

Colonial artist George French Angas arrived in Adelaide in January 1844, and began exploring the landscape and befriending the colony's naturalists.

Angas the Naturalist

George French Angas was a dedicated naturalist. Shell collecting was a childhood hobby of his, and he later became a renowned conchologist.

Last Days in South Australia

In 1845, colonial artist George French Angas held the South Australian colony's first solo art exhibition.