Robert Foulis (1707-1776)
Robert Foulis, with the help of his brother Andrew (1712-1775), promoted Glasgow’s standing in the Enlightenment with contributions to literature and art. Born and raised in Glasgow, Robert Foulis became a prominent name in the city thanks to Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), the famous moral philosopher at the University. From the 1740s onwards the brothers were the official university printers, and in 1753 they established the Academy of Fine Arts within the University’s original High Street grounds. Unfortunately, it is thought to be this endeavour which brought about their financial ruin and inability to pass on their standing in the publishing world. Perhaps this is why the Foulis name has fallen short of the status it surely deserves.
As printers, the Foulises produced mainly Greek and Roman classical works, with a strong emphasis on accuracy and a simple, professional aesthetic. They also reprinted well-known English works, such as Milton’s Paradise Lost. Their style was well-known and award-winning, boosting Glasgow’s academic standing as well as in print. Previously, printing in the city is said to have been in poor condition, with the chief concern being efficiency for profit, over accuracy in the pursuit of esteem.
Their Academy (pictured), one of the first in Scotland following St. Luke’s Academy in Edinburgh, produced well known artists such as James Tassie (1735-1799) and David Allan (1744-1796). They would often showcase the work of their students in open-air exhibitions in the University court. The works of art of Glasgow produced in the Academy portray some of the best topographical views of the city and, together with the legacy of the artists produced therein, serve as a fitting memorial for the otherwise underappreciated brothers.