Swing Angas by George French Angas

A group of Māori children on a morere swing, a tall pole with ropes attached from its top, flying out over a bank, watched by a group of seated adults and children. The palisades of a pa are in the right background and a low hill in the distance. Angas painted some of the earliest views of Australia, presenting his impressions of the newly established colony – its inhabitants, landscape, and its flora and fauna.

Author:George French Angas
Title: Swing Angas
Date 1847
Source Angas, George French 1822-1886: The New Zealanders Illustrated. London, Thomas McLean, 1847. Alexander Turnbull Library

George French Angas

George French Angas was an English explorer, naturalist, painterartist and natural historian, published many illustrations of the plants, native animals and peoples of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. His paintings are held in a number of important Australian public art collections.

In 1842 he published ‘Rambles in Malta and Sicily’, a study of natural history, anatomical drawing and lithography. Embarking on his travels, he was soon to find his acquired skills extremely useful.

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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.

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. 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.

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.