George Dance RA (1741 - 1825)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

The architect George Dance the Younger was the son of George Dance the Elder (c.1694-1768), who was also an architect and is best-known for designing the Mansion House (1739-52) for the Lord Mayor of London. Alongside his brother Nathaniel, Dance the Younger spent six years in Italy studying Roman antiquity and absorbing the emerging style of neo-classicism. There he won the gold medal of the Accademia di Belle Arti, Parma, in 1763 with a design for a public gallery and, in 1764, was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca in Rome.

Dance’s father had strong connections in the City of London, as a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company and clerk of the City works, which proved useful to his son’s early career. Soon after returning from Italy in 1765 Dance the Younger won a commission to redesign the church of All Hallows, London Wall, and, after his father’s death in 1768, he succeeded him as clerk of the City works (together they held the office from 1733-1815), and also became master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company.

Dance’s City work combined designing public buildings, and town-planning schemes. Dance’s major London building was Newgate prison (1770-84), which stood next to his Old Bailey sessions house (both were demolished in 1902). In the City of London, Dance also designed St Luke’s Hospital on Old Street, two debtors’ prisons and part of the Guildhall (including the new south façade combining Gothic and Indian styles). Few of Dance’s ambitious urban planning projects were realised, although his Finsbury Circus and St George’s Circus continue to shape the London cityscape. Dance’s City responsibilities restricted his other public commissions, but these included the Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall, where the publisher John Boydell exhibited the paintings of Shakespearean subjects that he commissioned from the leading artists of the day. Dance also undertook a limited amount of work designing or altering country houses, largely on behalf of London clients.

Dance was a Founder Member of the Royal Academy in 1768 where, although he seldom exhibited, he contributed much in terms of practical help and advice. In 1798 Dance succeeded Thomas Sandby as Professor of Architecture at the Academy, although he failed to deliver any lectures and resigned in 1806. Dance was a man of diverse interests and, in his spare time, he made a series of distinctive profile portraits of his fellow Academicians (now in the RA collection) which constitute a unique record of the Regency artistic establishment. A selection of these profiles was etched and published from 1809 by William Daniell.

After his death in 1825, Dance was buried in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral between the graves of his fellow Academicians Benjamin West PRA and Henry Fuseli RA, befitting his considerable impact on the built environment of Georgian London.


Royal Academician

Foundation Member

Born: 1741 in London, England, United Kingdom

Died: 14 January 1825

Nationality: British

Elected RA: 10 December 1768

Professor of Architecture: 1798 - 1805

Gender: Male

Preferred media: Architecture, Illustration, and Cartooning

Works by George Dance in the RA Collection

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Works after George Dance in the RA Collection

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Works associated with George Dance in the RA Collection

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Associated books

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Associated archives

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