DANCEY, George Henry
b. 1865 [U.K.] d. 1922 Melbourne, Vic.
George Henry Dancey was cartoonist, mural and stained glass designer, apprenticed to a leading London ecclesiatical designers, Clayton & Bell from the age of 13. He is rumoured to have worked on the windows for St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Melbourne, before leaving London for the colony due to ill-health, arriving in 1891. By 1894 he was employed as a political cartoonist at the Melbourne Punch, and chief cartoonist from 1998, a position he held (except for further periods of ill-health) until 1919. His skillful comments on the issues of the moment show his wit was equal to his artistic talents, with notable examples during the First World War. In 1916 he and Charles Nuttall held a major exhibition of their cartoons which travelled to London after a successful showing in Melbourne.
He was able to utilise his extensive skills as a artist and cartoon maker for windows and murals at Brooks, Robinson & Co., Melbourne, probably on a freelance basis. His most successful collaboration was with Brooks, Robinson’s resident stained glass artist, William Wheildon (1873-1941) who joined the firm in 1905 and became his close colleague and friend; Wheildon preparing the initial scale drawing and Dancey making the full-sized cartoon. They produced many of the firm’s most successful windows of the early twentieth century.
Dancey’s cartoons were so prized by the firm that they were stored carefully and re-used on numerous occasions until the 1960s when the firm closed. His cartoons reveal his obsession with drapery, believed to have been ignited by the Classical style of Sir Frederick Layton RA. Among his most successful cartoons was the Light of the World, his ‘Leighton-like’ draping of Christ’s robe distinctly different from Holman Hunt’s original that was Brooks, Robinson’s most popular subject of the first half of the twentieth century. It was only surpassed in the latter years of the firm by Dancey’s Good Shepherd.
Dancey’s designs for stained glass and murals usually appeared under the name of Brooks, Robinson & Co. however, his signature did appear on some of his murals, including the Hector Algenon Tause memorial (1916) at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Mentone (Vic.) and St. Michael Honour Roll at Christ Church Anglican, St. Kilda (Vic.) (1921). A few of his beautifully drawn cartoons survive in private collections.
He was an exhibiting member of the Victorian Artists’ Society c.1901-1910; Councillor VAS 1905.
Reaper and Sower, St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Woodend, Vic.
The Life of Christ, Our Lady of the Rosary, Kyneton, Vic. 1911
St. George, Christ Church, Murchison, Vic. 1915
Transfiguration of Christ, St. John’s Anglican Church, Toorak Vic. 1921
McCulloch, The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, 3rd ed. 1994, p.22; Fred John’s Annual of 1914; Age, 26 December 1922; Argus, 26 December 1922; Australian, 30 December 1922; Joan Kerr, ‘George Henry Dancey’, http://www.daaao.org.au/main/read/2014