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George Dance II

British, 1741 - 1825

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George Dance II was the fifth son of the Architect and Surveyor to the Corporation of the City of London. His father designed the Mansion House in the City, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.

George was sent at the age of seventeen to Italy to prepare himself for an architectural career and joined his brother Nathaniel, who was a painting student in Rome. They were later joined briefly by David Garrick, the actor-manager and comedian, who was a family friend. A further Dance brother was running Garrick's Drury Lane Theatre during his absence.

Dance first exhibited in 1761, and in 1768 was a founding member of the Royal Academy, in which year his father died and he succeeded to his practice as City Surveyor. Perhaps to escape the discipline of that profession, he produced many free, caligraphically drawn, entertaining caricatures. We know he made some of these in Italy, at the Opera in Rome. Following his return to England, he revealed, around 1793, another facet of his skill, producing profile portraits of the most eminent artists, writers, friends and the like. Some of his caricatures were engraved at a later date, but mainly given to friends and patrons, such as Sir George Beaumont, whose house he designed. The Royal Academy has an extensive series of profile pencil portraits, tinted with watercolor, of its most distinguished members. Others can be seen at the British Museum. A number of the portraits were translated into prints by his friend William Daniell, and published as "A Collection of Portraits sketched from the Life since the Year 1793" in two volumes, 1808-1814.

He took an active part in the running of the Royal Academy, as is seen particularly in the pages of the diaries of Joseph Farington R.A. He was professor of architecture at the Academy from 1798-1805. His best known surviving structure must be the eccentric Indo-Gothic facade to the City's Guildhall. He also designed the Newgate Prison, now the site of the Old Bailey, and St. Luke's Hospital. (extracted from William Drummond, An Exhibition of Portraits and Figures, London, n.d.)

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