, Instrument of Foundation
, Instrument of Foundation

For the Government of the Society, there shall be annually elected, A President, & eight other Persons, who shall form a Council, which shall have the Entire Direction, and Management of all the Business of the Society, and all the Officers & Servants thereof shall be Subservient to the said Council, which shall have Power to Reform all Abuses, to Censure such as are deficient in their Duty, and (with the Consent of the General Body, and the King’s Permission first obtained for that Purpose) to Suspend or entirely Remove from their Employments, such as shall be found guilty of any great Offences. The Council shall meet as often as the Business of the Society shall require it. Every Member shall be Punctual to the Hour of Appointment under the Penalty of a Fine at the Option of the Council, & at each Meeting the attending Members shall receive forty-five Shillings, to be Equally divided amongst them in which Division however the Secretary shall not be comprehended.

The Seats in the Council shall go by Succession, to all the Members of the Society, excepting the Secretary, who shall always belong thereto. Four of the Council shall be voted out every Year, and these shall not reoccupy their Seats in the Council, till all the Rest have Served, neither the President, nor Secretary shall have any Vote, either in the Council, or General Assembly, excepting the Suffrages be equal, in which Case, the President shall have the casting Vote.

There shall be a Secretary of the Royal Academy, Elected by Ballot from amongst the Academicians, and approved of by the King, his business shall be to keep the Minutes of the Council, to write Letters & send Summonses &ca. he shall attend at the Exhibition, assist in disposing the Performances, make out the Catalogues &ca. he shall also when the Keeper of the Academy is indisposed, take upon himself the Care of the Academy, and the Inspection of the Schools of Design, for which he shall be properly qualified his Sallary shall by Sixty Pounds a Year, and he shall continue in Office during his Majesty’s Pleasure

There shall be a Keeper of the Royal Academy, Elected by Ballot from amongst the Academicians, he shall be an able Painter of History, Sculptor or other Artist properly qualified. His Business shall be to keep the Royal Academy with the Models, Casts, Books & other Moveables belonging thereto, to attend regularly the Schools of Design during the Sittings of the Students, to preserve Order amongst them, and to give them such Advice & Instruction, as they shall require, he shall have the immediate Direction of all the Servants of the Academy, shall regulate all things relating to the Schools, & with the Assistance of the Visitors provide the living Models &ca. He shall attend at the Exhibition, assist in disposing the Performances & be constantly at Hand to preserve Order & Decorum. His Sallary shall be one Hundred Pounds a Year, he shall have a convenient Apartment allotted him in the Royal Academy, where he shall constantly reside, & he shall continue in Office during the King’s Pleasure.

There shall be a Treasurer of the Royal Academy, who, as the King is graciously pleased to pay all Deficiencies, shall be appointed by his Majesty from amongst the Academicians, that he may have a Person in whom he places full Confidence, in an Office where his Interest is concerned. And his Majesty doth hereby nominate & appoint William Chambers Esquire Architect of his Works, to be Treasurer of the Royal Academy of Arts, which Office he shall hold, together with the Emoluments thereof, from the Date of these Presents & during his Majesty’s Pleasure. His Business shall be to receive the Rents and Profits of the Academy, to pay its Expenses, to superintend Repairs of the Buildings & Alterations, to Examine all Bills, & to conclude all Bargains, he shall once in Every Quarter lay a fair State of his Accounts before the Council, & when they have passed Examination & been approved there, he shall lay them before the Keeper of his Majesty’s Privy Purse to be by him finally audited & the Deficiencies paid, his Sallary shall be Sixty Pounds a Year.

, Instrument of Foundation

That the Schools of Design may be under the Direction of the Ablest Artists, there shall be Elected Annually from amongst the Academicians nine Persons, who shall be called Visitors, they shall be Painters of History, able Sculptors, or other Persons properly qualified, their Business shall be to attend the Schools by Rotation, each a Month, to set the Figures, to examine the Performances of the Students, to Advise & Instruct them, to endeavour to form their Taste, & turn their Attention towards that Branch of the Arts, for which they shall seem to have the aptest Disposition. These Officers shall be approved of by the King, they shall be paid out of the Treasury ten Shillings & sixpence for each Time of attending which shall be at least two Hours, & shall be Subject to a Fine of ten Shillings & sixpence, whenever they neglect to attend, unless, they appoint a Proxy from amongst the Visitors for the Time being, in which Case he shall be entitled to the Reward. At every Election of Visitors four of the old Visitors shall be declared non-Eligible.

There shall be a Professor of Anatomy, who shall read Annually Six public Lectures, in the Schools, adapted to the Arts of Design his Sallary shall be Thirty Pounds a Year, & he shall continue in Office during the King’s Pleasure.

There shall be a Professor of Architecture, who shall read Annually Six Public Lectures, calculated to form the Taste of the Students to Instruct them in the Laws and Principles of Composition, to point out to them the Beauties or Faults of celebrated Productions, to fit them for an unprejudiced Study of Books, & for a critical Examination of Structures, his Sallary shall be Thirty Pounds a Year and he shall continue in Office during the King’s Pleasure.

There shall be a Professor of Painting who shall read Annually Six Lectures, calculated to Instruct the Students in the Principles of Composition, to form their Taste of Design & colouring, to strengthen their Judgement, to point out to them the Beauties & Imperfections of celebrated Works of Art, & the Particular Excellencies or Defects of great Masters and finally to lead them into the Readiest, & most efficatious Paths of Study. his Sallary shall be Thirty Pounds a Year, and he shall continue in Office during the King’s Pleasure

There shall be a Professor of Perspective, and Geometry, who shall read Six public Lectures Annually in the Schools, in which all the useful Propositions of Geometry, together with the Principles of Lineal & Aerial Perspective, & also the Projection of Shadows, Reflecions & Refractions shall be clearly & fully illustrated, he shall particularly confine himself to the quickest, easiest, & most exact Methods of Operation. He shall continue in Office during the King’s Pleasure & his Sallary shall be Thirty Pounds a Year.

The Lectures of all the Professors shall be laid before the Council for its Approbation, which shall be obtained in Writing, before they can be read in the public Schools. All these Professors shall be Elected by Ballot, the three last from amongst the Academicians.

There shall be a Porter of the Royal Academy whose Sallary shall be 25 Pounds a Year, he shall have a Room in the Royal Academy, & receive his Orders from the Keeper or Secretary.

There shall be a Sweeper of the Royal Academy whose Sallary shall be 10L a Year.

There shall be an Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures & Designs, which shall be open to all Artists of distinguished Merit, it shall continue for the Public one Month, & be under the Regulations expressed in the By laws of the Society hereafter to be made.

, Instrument of Foundation

Of the Profits arising therefrom Two Hundred Pounds shall be given to indigent Artists or their Families, and the Remainder shall be employed in the Support of the Institution. All Academicians till they have attained the Age of Sixty shall be obliged to Exhibit at least one Performance, under a Penalty of five Pounds to be paid into the Treasury of the Academy, unless they can Show sufficient Cause for their Omission but after that Age they shall be exempt from all Duty.

There shall be a Winter Academy of living Models, Men & Women of different Characters, under the Regulations expressed in the By laws of the Society hereafter to be made, free to all Students who shall be qualified to receive Advantage from such Studies.

There shall be a Summer Academy of living Models to paint after, also of Laymen with Draperies, both antient & modern, Plaister Figures, Bas reliefs, Models & Designs of Fruits, Flowers, Ornaments, &ca. free to all Students qualified to receive Advantage from such Studies & under the Regulations expressed in the By Laws of the Society hereafter to be made.

There shall be a Library of Books of Architecture, Sculpture, Painting and all the Sciences relating thereto, also Prints of Bas reliefs, Vases, Trophies, Ornaments, Dresses ancient & modern Customs & Ceremonies, Instruments of War & Arts, Utensils of Sacrifice, & all other Things useful to Students in the Arts, which Library shall be open one Day in Every Week to all Students properly qualified. One of the Members of the Council shall attend in the Room during the whole Time it is open, to keep Order, & to see that no Damage be done to the Books, & he shall be paid 10/6d. for his Attendance. No Books shall under any Pretence be suffered to be taken out of the Library. But every Academician shall have free ingress at all seasonable Times of the Day, to consult the Books & to make Designs or Sketches from them.

There shall be annually one General Meeting of the whole Body or more if requisite, to Elect the Council & Visitors to Confirm new Laws & Regulations, to Hear Complaints & redress Grievances if there be any, and to do any other Business relative to the Society.

The Council shall frame new Laws & Regulations but they shall have no force, till ratified by the Consent of the General Assembly and the Approbation of the King.

Though it may not be for the Benefit of the Institution absolutely to prohibit Pluralities, yet they are as much as possible to be avoided, that his Majesty’s Gracious Intention may be comply’d with, by dividing as nearly as possible the Emoluments of the Institution amongst all its Members.

If any Member of the Society shall by any means become obnoxious it may be put to the Ballot in the General Assembly whether he shall be expelled, & if there be found a Majority for Expulsion, he shall be expelled provided his Majesty’s Permission be first obtained for that Purpose

No Student shall be admitted into the Schools till he hath satisfied the Keeper of the Academy, the Visitor & Council for the Time being of his Abilities, which being done, he shall receive his Letter of Admission, signed by the Secretary of the Academy certifying that he is admitted a Student in the Royal Schools.

If any Student be guilty of improper Behaviour in the Schools or doth not quietly submit to the Rules & Orders Established for their Regulation it shall be in the Power of the Council upon Complaint being first made by the Keeper of the Academy, to Expel, Reprimand, or Rusticate him for a certain Time, but if he be once Expelled he shall never be readmitted in to the Royal Schools

All Modes of Elections shall be regulated by the By laws of the Society hereafter to be made for that Purpose.

I approve of this Plan, let it be put into execution
George R.

St. James’s
Decr. 10th. 1768.

Instrument of Foundation

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Instrument of Foundation


10 Dec 1768



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1 piece

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Historical Background

The minutes of the General Assembly of 14 December 1768 record that toward the end of November 1768, Sir William Chambers informed King George III that he and a group of distinguished artists were keen to establish a society under his patronage that should "more effectually promote the arts of design than any yet established". The King in reply stated that he was ready to extend his patronage to "whatever tended effectually to promote the liberal arts". This led to the presentation on 28 November of a memorial signed by twenty-two painters, sculptors and architects, which set out in brief the aims of the proposed body: to establish a "well-regulated School or Academy of Design, for the use of students in the Arts, and an Annual Exhibition, open to all artists of distinguished merit". The memorial expressed the belief that the profits arising from the exhibition would be sufficient to cover all the costs of the intended School and, in fact, would yield a surplus which could be distributed to charities. The King received the memorial graciously and asked for a fuller exposition of the artists' plans. The minutes indicate that Chambers was mainly responsible for the content of this subsequent "a sketch of a plan", which was shown to "as many of the Gentlemen concerned as the shortness of time would permit, and obtained their approbation". On 7 December 1768, it was presented to the King, who gave his approval. The document, subsequently known as the Instrument of Foundation, was then written out in proper form and received the royal signature on Saturday, 10 December 1768.

Content Description

The Instrument of Foundation is the original scheme for the establishment and government of the Royal Academy of Arts. It consists of a preamble and twenty-seven clauses relating to the membership, government, officers, Schools, Professors, servants, exhibition, Library and constitution of the new body, and is signed by the King with the words "I approve of this plan; let it be put in execution."