Robert B. Dance was born May 31, 1934 in Tokyo, Japan where he first became interested in art. Political tensions were so intense by 1941 that his family was advised by Ambassador Joseph Grew to return to the United States just weeks before Pearl Harbor.
At six years of age he began painting and eventually was accepted at the prestigious Philadelphia Museum College of Art. Upon graduation he won the major award in his field of art and was asked to teach, but declined and entered the field of illustration and design. He freelanced for major companies such as General Electric, Hanes, Hewlett-Packard, Taylor Instruments, R.J. Reynolds, Grady-White Boats, and numerous banks. Tiring of commercial art, he was asked to illustrate many books by J.B. Lippincott, John F. Blair Publishing, poems by Robert Penn Warren, and James Dickey’s book, “Veteran Birth,” He was also asked by a national magazine to illustrate with woodcuts the writings of Alexander Pushkin, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Chekhov, Dumas, Voltaire, Balzac, Baccaccio, and Petronius.
In his late 30s Dance decided to give up illustration and become a painter after seeing the work of Thomas Eakins and Andrew Wyeth in Philadelphia. In entering the world of painting, he became known for his very realistic and detailed paintings of varied subject matter. Later he became known for his nautical art and was named by The Mystic Maritime Gallery as one of America’s premier nautical artists. His painting, “Hatteras Standing” was used on the first National Park Stamp in 1988 and was exhibited at the Smithsonian. He was also presented to George H. Bush in the White House. He had the opening exhibition at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in 1985 and designed that museum’s logo. In 1987 he won the cover and print competition at The Easton Waterfowl Festival. In 1991 The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art awarded him a 20 year retrospective. In 2000 he was included in a Raleigh, NC exhibition titled, “North Carolina’s 20th Century Masters.”
Dance has written technical articles for American Artist Magazine on five different occasions, and for the British magazine, The Artist. He was asked to test pigments several times by the prestigious British firm of Winsor & Newton and is one of the leading experts on their Alkyd medium. Several of his paintings appear in the book, “Bound for Blue Water” by the leading expert on American Nautical Art, J. Russell Jinishian. An extended biography of his life by Charles Raskob Robinson is in the artist files of the Smithsonian, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Library of Congress.