Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000

Sketches by Hand : The Kaffirs Illustrated by George French Angas

George French Angas is known for his meticulous depictions of South Australian and New Zealand people and landscapes, completed in 1845. His South African watercolours, painted during 1846-1847, are less well known. The Society holds ten of these works, combining accurate and engaging portraiture with close ethnographic observation. 

Umpanda, King of the Amazulu, reviewing the soldiers at Nonduengu, 1847

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Following the successful London publication and exhibition of his South Australian and New Zealand watercolours, George French Angas set out on a collecting and painting expedition to South Africa during 1846-1847. His first destinations were Cape Town, where he made a series of important watercolours depicting the capital’s Malay inhabitants, and the Moravian mission settlement of Genadendal, a refuge for some of the Cape’s original ‘Hottentot’ inhabitants. Sailing next to Durban, Angas travelled inland, crossing the Umvoti River into Zulu territory. Here he made some of his most spectacular watercolours, depicting Zulu warriors and the court of the Zulu king, Umpanda.

On his return to London Angas published thirty South African watercolours as lithographs in the folio volume, The Kafirs Illustrated (1849).  During the 1870s, living as a gentleman naturalist with his wife Alicia and four daughters, Angas began to experience financial difficulty. Having sold most of his original watercolours in 1853 (now held mostly at the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia), he sold five of his remaining South African watercolours to the British Museum. A year later he offered the final ten watercolours to S.W. Silver, for three pounds each, writing that ‘these are the original drawings made by myself on the spot in 1846-7 and are all that now remains of my former labors’. Of ten watercolours acquired by the Society from Silver, three had been published in Kafirs Illustrated; the remaining seven images have rarely been examined.

Malay Priest at Prayers, Cape Town,  May 1847
George French Angas, A Malay Priest at Prayers, Cape Town, May 1847
Karl Julius. Hottentot Herd-boy, 1847
George French Angas, Karl Julius. Hottentot Herd-boy, 1847

Rare Book Room RGSSA MS 2d