Coloured painting of a red brick house surrounded by green foliage
George French Angas, Great-grand-mama French's House, 1830, private collection

George French Angas’s artistic talent became evident during his early childhood. In 1830, aged eight, he painted a watercolour depicting his grandmother’s house near London. Two years later, the family, including his 4 elder sisters and younger brother, moved to Dawlish on the Devon coast. Angas became an avid shell collector.

He and his brother John boarded at Tavistock grammar school, where their Nonconformist Protestant education included drawing lessons.

By his early teens Angas had become a skilled copyist of zoological illustrations, able to replicate small variations between species. On his family’s return to London in 1839 he studied with the natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who emphasised simplicity and the ‘elements of form’.

Angas’s sketches became looser and freer, while retaining his mastery of meticulous detail. A career as a naturalist became his primary aim.