Nathaniel was third son of George Dance the Elder, and elder brother of George Dance the Younger. He was born on 18th May 1735 and entered Merchant Taylors’ School in 1744. He studied art under Francis Hayman for some years, and also in Italy, where he became acquainted with, and hopelessly attached to, Angelica Kauffmann.
In 1761, Nathaniel was elected a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists and, two years afterwards, sent to their exhibition from Rome his picture of ‘Dido and Aeneas’. On his return to England, he took up portrait painting and attained considerable distinction in that branch of art, contributing to the first exhibition of the Royal Academy (of which he was a founder member) full-length portraits of both George III and his young queen. Until 1776, he was a frequent exhibitor of portraits and historical pieces but, after that date, ceased to exhibit.
In 1790, he retired from his profession, upon his marriage with Harriet, daughter of Sir Cecil Bishop, bart., and widow of Thomas Dummer. They purchased the manor of Little Wittenham in Berkshire where they resided in the hunting lodge which had recently replaced an old Tudor mansion. Having taken the additional name of Holland "out of his great respect to Charlotte Holland of Wigmore Street, Cavendish Square, spinster," he entered parliament and was MP for East Grinstead for many years. In 1800, he was created a baronet but, dying without issue on 15th October 1811, the title became extinct. Through his marriage and by his profession, he had amassed considerable wealth and, even late in life, continued to paint landscapes with considerable success. His best known pictures are the Royal portraits already mentioned, now at Uppark in Sussex, a portrait of Captain Cook at Greenwich Hospital, ‘Timon of Athens’, a subject picture in the Royal Collection, and a portrait of ‘Garrick as Richard III’.
Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1891).
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