Royal Academy Instrument of Foundation (1768)

Chambers, William
Johan Joseph Zoffany, The Academicians of the Royal Academy 1771-72. Royal Trust Collection. RCIN 400747.


There shall be an Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, and Designs, which shall be open to all Artists of distinguished merit ; it shall continue for the public one month, and be under the regulations expressed in the bye-laws of the Society, hereafter to be made. 

Whereas sundry persons, resident in this metropolis, eminent professors of painting, sculpture, and architecture, have most humbly represented by memorial unto the King that they are  desirous of establishing a Society for promoting the Arts of  Design, and earnestly soliciting his Majesty's patronage and  assistance in carrying this their plan into execution ; and,  whereas, its great utility hath been fully and clearly demonstrated, his Majesty,  therefore, desirous of encouraging every useful undertaking, doth hereby institute and establish the said Society, under the name and title of the Koyal Academy of Arts in London, graciously declaring himself the patron, protector, and supporter thereof; and commanding that it be established under the forms and regulations hereinafter mentioned, which have been most humbly laid before his Majesty, and received his royal approbation and assent. 

1o. The said Society shall consist of forty members only, who shall be called Academicians of the Royal Academy; they shall all of them be artists by profession at the time of their  admission that is to say, painters, sculptors, or architects, men of fair moral characters, of high reputation in their several professions ; at least five-and-twenty years of age ; resident in Great Britain ; and not members of any other society of artists established in London. 

2ndo. It is his Majesty's pleasure that the following forty persons be the original members of the said Society, viz.: 









3o. After the first institution, all vacancies of Academicians shall be filled by election from amongst the exhibitors in the Royal Academy; the names of the candidates for admission shall be put up in the Academy three months before the day of election, of which day timely notice shall be given in writing to all the Academicians ; each candidate shall, on the day of election, have at least thirty suffrages in his favour, to be duly elected ; and he shall not receive his letter of admission till he hath deposited in the Royal Academy, to remain there, a picture, bas-relief, or other specimen of his abilities approved of by the then sitting Council of the Academy. 

4to. For the government of the Society there shall be annually elected a President and 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 and 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 ; and 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. 

5to. 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 re-occupy 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. 

6to. There shall be a Secretary of the Eoyal Academy, electedby 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, and send summonses, &c.; he shall  attend at the exhibition, assist in disposing the performances, make out the catalogues, &c.; 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 salary shall be sixty pounds 
a year, and he shall continue in office during his Majesty's pleasure. 

7mo. 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, and other moveables belonging thereto ; to attend regularly the Schools of Design during the sittings of the students, to preserve order among them, and to give them such advice and 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, and, with the assistance of the visitors, provide the living models, &c. He 
shall attend at the exhibition, assist in disposing the performances, and be constantly at hand to preserve order and decorum. His salary shall be one hundred pounds a year ; he shall have a convenient apartment allotted him in the Royal Academy, where he shall constantly reside ; and he shall continue in office during the King's pleasure. 

8to. 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 on whom he places full confidence in an office where his interest is concerned ; and his Majesty doth hereby nominate and 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, and during his Majesty's pleasure. His business shall be to receive the rents and profits of the Academy, to pay its expenses, to super-intend repairs of the buildings and alterations, to examine all bills, and to conclude all bargains ; he shall once in every quarter lay a fair state of his accounts before the council, and when they have passed examination and been approved there, he shall lay them before the Keeper of his Majesty's Privy 
Purse, to be by him finally audited and the deficiencies paid; his salary shall be sixty pounds a year. 

9o. That the Schools of Design maybe 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 and instruct them, to endeavour to form their taste, and 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 and sixpence for each time of attending, which shall be at least two hours, and shall be subject to a fine of ten shillings and 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. 

10mo.There shall be a Professor of Anatomy, who shall read annually six public lectures in the schools, adapted to the arts of design ; his salary shall be thirty pounds a year ; and he shall  continue in office during the King's pleasure. 

11o. There shall be a Professor of Architecture, who shall read annually six public Lectures, calculated to form the taste of the Students, tp 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, and for a critical examination of structures ; his salary shall be thirty pounds a year ; and he shall continue in office during the King's pleasure. 

12o. 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 and colouring, to strengthen their judgment, to point out to them the beauties and imperfections of celebrated works of Art, and the particular excellences or defects of great masters ; and, finally, to lead them into the readiest and most efficacious 
paths of study ; his salary shall be thirty pounds a year ; and he shall continue in office during the King's pleasure. 

13o. 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 principle of Lineal and Aerial Perspective, and also the projection of shadows, reflections, and refractions shall be clearly and fully illustrated; he shall particularly confine himself to the quickest, easiest, and most exact methods of operation. He shall continue in office during the King's pleasure ; and his salary shall be thirty pounds a year. 

14o. 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 last three from amongst the Academicians. 

15o. There shall be a Porter of the Royal Academy, whose salary shall be twenty-five pounds a year; he shall have a room in the Royal Academy, and receive his orders from the Keeper or Secretary. 

16o. There shall be a Sweeper of the Royal Academy, whose salary shall be ten pounds a year. 

17o. There shall be an Annual Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, and Designs, which shall be open to all Artists of 
distinguished merit ; it shall contiilue for the public one month, and be under the regulations expressed in the bye-laws of the Society, hereafter to be made. 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 perform- 
ance, 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. 

18o. There shall be a Winter Academy of Living Models,men and women of different characters, under the  regulations  expressed in the bye-laws of the Society, hereafter to be made, free to all Students who shall be qualified to receive advantage from such studies. 

19o. There shall be a Summer Academy of Living Models to paint after, also of Laymen with draperies, both Ancient and Modern, Plaster Figures, Bas-reliefs, models and designs of Fruits, Flowers, Ornaments, &c., free to all artists qualified to receive advantage from such studies, and under the regulations expressed in the bye-laws of the Society hereafter to be made. 

20o. 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 and modern customs and ceremonies, instruments of war and arts, utensils of sacrifice, and 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, and to see that no damage is done to the 
books ; and he shall be paid 10s. 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, and to make designs or sketches from them. 

21o. There shall be annually one Greneral Meeting of the whole body, or more if requisite, to elect the Council and Visitors ; to confirm new laws and regulations ; to hear complaints and redress grievances, if there be any ; and to do any other business relative to the Society. 

22o. The Council shall frame new laws and regulation; but they shall have no force, till ratified by the consent of the General Assembly, and the approbation of the King. 

23o. 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 complied with, by dividing as nearly as possible the emoluments of the Institution amongst all its Members. 

24o. 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, and if there be found a majority for expulsion, he shall be expelled, provided his Majesty's permission be first obtained for that purpose. 

25o. No Student shall be admitted into the Schools, till he hath satisfied the Keeper of the Academy, the Visitor, and 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. 

26o. If any Student be guilty of improper behaviour in the Schools, or doth not quietly submit to the Rules and 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 re-admitted in the Royal Schools. 

27o. All modes of elections shall be regulated by the bye-laws of the Society, hereafter to be made for that purpose. 

I approve of this plan ; let it be put into execution. 



December 10th, 1768 


Text taken and adapted from The history of the Royal Academy of Arts from its foundation in 1768 to the present time. With biographical notices of all the members (London: Spottiswood and Co., 1862), vol. 1, p. 52-55. Full book from The Internet Archive. See manuscript on the Royal Academy site.