Robert Foulis

Biography of Robert Foulis

Robert Foulis
Robert Foulis

Robert Foulis (1707-1776) and his brother Andrew (1712-1775) were printers to the University and the founders of the ill-fated Academy of Fine Arts.

Born in Glasgow, Foulis was a maltman, barber and wigmaker who studied at the University in the 1730s. He became a bookseller specialising in importing volumes from continental Europe, and in 1740 he began selling books from a room in one of the University quadrangles. Robert subsequently became a publisher in his own right and set up a printing press in a room near James Watt's workshop. In 1743 he was authorised to style himself as Printer to the University and in the following year he entered into a formal business partnership with his brother Andrew. The Foulis brothers' relationship with the University continued until their deaths more than thirty years later.

In 1753 the brothers received a loan from the University, to help meet the costs of establishing an Academy of Fine Arts. The academy was intended as a school of art and design, whose students would be able to study and take inspiration from a large collection of paintings and other works of art that the brothers imported from Europe. The Academy was accommodated in the upper hall of the University's library, but it was a financial failure and closed in 1775. Robert died the following year after a trip to London to sell the paintings and recoup some of his heavy financial losses.


Robert Foulis
Printer and Bookseller

Born 20 April 1707.
Died 2 June 1776.
University Link: Alumnus
Occupation categories: book sellers; printers; publishers
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P10477
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Record last updated: 10th Aug 2008

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  • Alumnus


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