ANGAS MEMORIAL BRONZE RELIEFS, c.1915
WILLIAM ROBERT COLTON
six bronze reliefs
various sizes, 63.0 cm max. height
The Angas family, England
Thence by descent
Private collection, England
Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne, 25 November 2009, lot 29
Private collection, Melbourne
Extensive literature on the Angas Memorial can be found in the Adelaide Advertiser, Chronicle, Observer, Register and News. See also Adelaide Advertiser, 30 January 1914, p. 11
Cameron, S., Silent Witness: Adelaide’s Statues and Monuments, Adelaide, 1997, pp. 59–61
The six bronze reliefs by William Colton were cast in an edition of two, one being set in the Angas Memorial, Adelaide, and the other retained by the family in England. A gift of the family, the Memorial honoured George Fife Angas (1789-1879) and his son John Howard Angas (1823-1904), founders of the dynasty in South Australia. George Fife was regarded by many as the father of South Australia, being the financial brains behind the establishment of the new colony. A Baptist, merchant banker, he was chairman of the South Australian Company in London and later a member of South Australia's first Legislative Council. His son John Howard Angas guided the family's pastoral interests and, like his father, achieved a widely respected political and philanthropic profile. The realisation of the Memorial, nowadays sited in the Angas Gardens on the north side of the River Torrens near King William Road, was supported by John Howard Angas' daughter Lilian, by then living in England, and her brother Charles. It was completed in 1915.
The temple-like Memorial consists of a marble canopy supported by four ionic columns over a pedestal, topped by a sailing ship. A life-sized winged angel stands on the steps. The six bronze reliefs on each side show portraits of George Fife and John Howard Angas, and illustrate events associated with the Angas family and settlement of South Australia. The bust of George Fife is titled 'Patriot - Politician - Philanthropist' and that of John Howard as 'Pioneer - Pastoralist - Philanthropist'. (Another son, George French Angas was a noted colonial artist well known for his volume South Australia Illustrated of colour lithographs of the Colony's early years.) The first relief to catch the eye celebrates the raising of the flag at the Old Gum Tree, Glenelg, on Proclamation Day 28 December 1836, when Governor John Hindmarsh inaugurated South Australia, reading the Foundation Act issued by King William IV. Another relief shows Silesian Lutherans boarding ship. They were the largest group of devout families encouraged by George Fife, a keen promoter of civil and religious liberty, to emigrate to South Australia. Today their descendants provide the engaging German traditions present in the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills. Another panel is devoted to the sturdy pioneers, loaded wagons hauled by horses and bullocks across the diagonals of the composition pictorialising their uphill challenges. Finally, the map of New Zealand, lettered underneath 'Saved For Great Britain 1846', refers to the annexation of New Zealand and the part played by George Fife in saving New Zealand from French interests.
Colton, who designed the monument and its bronzes, was born in Paris in 1867, coming to England three years later. Noted for his portraits busts, allegorical subjects and public monuments, he is well remembered for his South African Royal Artillery Memorial (1899-1902) in London's The Mall. Other important outdoor sculptures include the statue in the grounds of the Worcester Cathedral, UK, commemorating the Worcestershire men who died in the Boer War, and in Australia the bronze of Matthew Flinders, unveiled in 1925 opposite the front of the Mitchell Library, Sydney. His celebration of the sensuous beauty of the female nude, the bronze sculpture The Girdle, 1898, in the Tate Gallery, was once regarded as his most famous work. Colton exhibited in the Royal Academy and in Paris in the Salon of Société des Artistes Français. Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools from 1907 to 1910 and again in 1911-1912, he was elected an R.A. in 1991 and President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1921.