Two rare and important watercolours by George French Angas are to be auctioned at Bonhams
Australian Art sale on 22 August at Byron Kennedy Hall, Sydney. One shows the departure of Sturt's third and final expedition from Adelaide, while the other depicts the first Royal Adelaide Show. They are estimated to fetch AU$20,000-30,000 each.
George French Angas was the son of Englishman George Fife Angas, who supporting the establishment of an Australian state settled entirely by free settlers, founded the South Australian Company. In February 1836, the Company's three ships set sail for South Australia with the first emigrants, livestock and provisions on board. In 1843, his sons George French and John Howard followed aboard the Augustus, arriving in the colony in 1844 George French joined several exploring expeditions for the South Australian Company, including journeys to the Murray River lakes, Barossa Valley, Fleurieu Peninsula and the South East. He painted some of the earliest views of the country and sketched views of the countryside, native animals and the customs and dwellings of the Narrinyeri people as they travelled, presenting his impressions of the newly established colony: its inhabitants, landscape, and its flora and fauna.
These formed the basis of many lithographic plates in his South Australia Illustrated, published after his return to London in 1846. These two finished watercolours were exhibited in Australia before Angas took them back to England in 1846, where they have remained in the collection of his family for over 150 years.
One of the lots offered in this auction depicts the departure of Captain Charles Napier Sturt (1795-1869) on his third and final expedition. On 10 August 1844, Sturt left Adelaide with 15 men, 6 drays, a boat and 200 sheep and this painting shows all the chaos that surrounded the departure.
The second work is titled The Flower Show, Adelaide. In February 1844, the South Australian Agricultural Society, formed in 1839, merged with an early horticultural organisation and staged its first combined exhibition held under marquees and tents among the gum trees in Botanic Park. This was the birth of the Agricultural & Horticultural Society and what was to become the Royal Adelaide Show, the Royal prefix granted by Queen Victoria in 1869, which is now a major annual event.
Hannah O'Leary of Bonhams comments, "I was amazed to find these paintings: original Angas watercolours, particularly those from his Australian period, rarely come to the market. The fact that they depict two major events makes them even more exciting. They are important historical artefacts and we are delighted that they are returning to Australia for auction. I would love to think they might be purchased by a public collection; it would be wonderful to see the works exhibited again as they were in 1845."