Biography of 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.