George Dance the Younger RA (1741-1825)

The architect and portrait artist George Dance the Younger was the son of the Architect and Surveyor to the Corporation of London who built Mansion House. He trained as an architect in his father's office, and also spent time in France and Italy. He was a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, and then, on his father's death in 1768, he took his position with the Corporation of London, designing important public buildings such as the now-destroyed Newgate Prison (1770), and St. Luke's Hospital in Classical style. His also is All Hallows London Wall (1765-7), and much later in his career, he designed the College of Surgeons (1806-13). His chief pupil was John Soane.

Dance was one of the original members of the Royal Academy, and contributed architectural designs to the early exhibitions though he showed few works there. Despite this lack of support for the Academy, after the death of Thomas Sandby in 1798, Dance became the second Professor of Architecture there. He repaid the honour by failing to give any lectures there over 7 years, following which he resigned the post in 1805. It seems almost unjust that he outlived all the other founding members of the Academy.

From about 1793 onwards, he drew a remarkable series of over 200 portraits in pencil of his friends and acquaintances. He remained the City Surveyor until 1895/96, and then lead a somewhat reclusive life in poor health at his house in Upper Gower Street.

And what happened to the 200 portraits of Dance's contemporaries? Fifty three of them (all artists) were bought by the Royal Academy, and the rest sold privately in 1898, on the death of Dance's grandson. However, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum were able to acquire more than 50 of them, the rest passing into private hands. In 1808-14 72 of the portraits appeared in a portfolio, being engraved by William Daniell RA.

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