Born in London, Dance was an artist and later in life, a politician. Although he sought to develop as a history painter, opportunities in eighteenth-century Britain were limited. Consequently it was as a portraitist that he was most successful. He spent a great deal of time in Italy, developing a more inventive approach to drawing and painting. Whilst in Rome in the 1760s he had a love affair with fellow painter, Angelica Kauffman, which ended on their return to Britain in 1764. On his arrival in London, Dance received his most prestigious commission - a portrait of Edward, Duke of York, on behalf of King George III. Dance went on to be a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1773 and was elected as an M.P. for East Grinstead in 1790.