George French Angas was the son of London Financier George Fife Angas. He declined the opportunity to join the family firm being determined to follow his artistic nature. Instead he ventured to this new colony his Baptist father invested in as the South Australia Company and set about recording its wonders through commissions and offering his services to explorers, notable the Governor George Grey's venture to the South East to Mount Gambier.
Having gone against his father's wishes, his financial training lead him to engaged a lithograph publisher, Thomas McLean, to lithograph the paintings he would eventually send back to London. It fell to Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1889) to design the fronti-spiece from the newly discovered wonders Angas was revealing.
Here we see Angas' sympathetic treatment of the indigenous inhabitants mixed with the stereotypical interpretation of an artist "back home" who yearned to convey a romantic, exotic edge. Angas was keen to represent what he painted accurately. As a consequence many of his aboriginal portraits were in traditional coverings, if any at all. The London lithographers/artists modified his honest renderings to suit the Victorian tastes of the era, hence clothing them with European clothes. Another stereotypical touch was the bone piercing in the nose. This was not traditional among the Adelaide Plains tribes,
British artists often confused Australian Aborigines with Maoris and other Pacific Islanders, proof that they were not painting from "insitu" observation but a general idea of the Antipodes.
More proof that Angas had not designed the title page of his South Australia Illustrated, is the "dingo", or "native dog" in the hollow - with its bushy fox-like tail, it again is a construct of what Hawkins was familiar with anatomically, that of a fox.
Size of Image = 37cm x 54cm (21 1/4 x 14 1/2 inch)
Issued with Archival Limited Edition certificate
Posted by Aparecida on 25th May 2012
Fantastic that an early colonial artist got out of his head that "Noble Savage" idea and actually painted what he saw. These are the most sympathetically rendered Indigenous Australians I have seen (albeit some of the additions-bone in the nose, clothes, foxes for dingoes-by the lithographers back in London!
Posted by Tony Simkins on 13th Oct 2011
For anyone interested in South Australian heritage this is where it all starts being recorded.