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An appetite for adventure inspired Andrews’ work as an artist-correspondent. In 1837, he accompanied Richard W. H. Howard-Vyse on an archaeological expedition to Egypt, where he served as an engineer and illustrator for Howard-Vyse’s three-volume Operations Carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh (London, 1840-42). In the autumn of 1860, Andrews accompanied the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, on an extensive tour of the United States and Canada. As the excursion’s official artist, he produced numerous sketches for the Illustrated London News. Some of his most famous works are those depicting Niagara Falls and the harbors of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Portland, Maine, and Boston, Massachusetts. The prince and his entourage traveled as far South as Richmond, Virginia. When the travelers returned to England in October 1860, Andrews either remained behind in the United States or returned after a brief visit to London, for he was back at work by early 1861 in the American South and West. He covered early campaigns of the American Civil War, but by the end of that year had moved on to Canada. He was at home in England by mid-1862 and later traveled to France to record the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71).
It is likely that Andrews painted Prawn Fishing, which depicts several groups of African American fishermen casting nets to harvest prawns or shrimp, during his extended or second visit. While the featured boats are traditional Southern tide craft, the nets employed are distinctive hoop nets, not the familiar lead-line cast nets traditionally used along the Southern coast.
Born in Lambeth, England, George Henry Andrews was educated as an engineer. The source of his artistic training is unknown, but by 1840 he was an active book illustrator and by 1847 was listed as a member of the art staff of the Illustrated London News. It was through his work on this newspaper—as well as other periodicals such as The Graphic—that Andrews’ career as an illustrator was established. A distinguished watercolorist as well, Andrews was a member of the Old Water Colour Society, exhibiting there from 1840 to 1850 and with the Royal Academy from 1850 to 1893.
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