Guillaume-Abel Blouet

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Frontispiece of L’Expédition scientifique de Morée edited by Blouet

Guillaume-Abel Blouet (6 October 1795 – 7 May 1853) was a French architect who specialised in prison design.


Blouet was born at Passy. He won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1821 at the École des Beaux-Arts, entitling him to five years' study at the French Academy in Rome. The study of Roman architecture that was expected from students at the French Academy at Rome resulted in his speculative restoration of the original construction of the Baths of Caracalla, Restauration des thermes d'Antonin Caracalla, à Rome, présentée en 1826 et dédiée en 1827 à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts (1828).

The Institut de France appointed Blouet the head of the fine arts section of the French Morea expedition 1828-1833, the second of three great military-scientific expeditions led by France in the first half of the 19th century,[1] in which geologists and antiquarians accompanied an expedition with military objectives, in this case to deport all Ottoman nationals from the Morea, a turning-point in the Greek War of Independence. In the course of the expedition he established the identity of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (1829), which was measured and carefully drawn and published.

Having overseen the completion of the Arc de Triomphe (1831–36), he toured the United States in 1836, together with Frédéric-Auguste Demetz, a penal reformer and lawyer at the French Royal Court, to study American prison architecture and administration for the French Ministry of the Interior.

Upon Blouet's return to Paris he devoted himself to the reform of prison design and in 1838 was appointed to the new post of Inspector General of French Prisons, which brought with it, ex officio, a seat on the Conseil des bâtiments civiles, the official national body that succeeded the Bâtiments du Roi of the Ancien Régime.[2] Blouet believed in using architecture to realize social reform and together with Demetz worked on the design and layout of the buildings for the Mettray Penal Colony, an agricultural reform school, which was initially directed by Demetz after its opening in July 1839. It was noted as being officially opened on 22 January 1840.[3]

In 1846 he was appointed a professor at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts and in 1848, when his post of Inspector General of Prisons was eliminated in a reorganization,[4] he was given in compensation the position of architect in charge of the Palais de Fontainebleau, which was to be a center of court life under the French Second Empire. He revised and completed the Traité théorique et pratique de l'art de bâtir of Jean-Baptiste Rondelet (1847). He was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1850.

He died in Paris in 1853.

Principal publications[edit]

  • Restauration des thermes d'Antonin Caracalla, à Rome, présentée en 1826 et dédiée en 1827 à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts (1828)
  • Expédition scientifique de Morée, ordonnée par le gouvernement français. Architecture, sculptures, inscriptions et vues du Péloponèse, des Cyclades et de l'Attique, mesurées, dessinées, recueillies et publiées (Abel Blouet, with Amable Ravoisié, Achille Poirot, Félix Trézel and Frédéric de Gournay) (3 volumes, 1831–1838)
  • Rapports à M. le Comte de Montalivet, sur les pénitenciers des États-Unis, by Frédéric-Auguste Demetz and Abel Blouet (1837)
  • Chutes du Niagara Niagara Falls, drawn from nature in March 1837 by A. Blouet, lithographed by C. Remond (1838)
  • A volume of prison designs, with Hector Horeau and Harou Romain (1841)[5]
  • Projet de prison cellulaire pour 585 condamnés, précédé d'Observations sur le système pénitentiaire (1843) The design had been shown at the Paris Salon of 1843.
  • Traité théorique et pratique de l'art de bâtir de Jean Rondelet. Supplément by G.-Abel Blouet


  1. ^ The first, used as a benchmark, had been Napoleon's Egyptian campaign starting in 1798; the third took place in Algeria from 1839.
  2. ^ David Van Zanten, "Nineteenth-Century French Government Architectural Services and the Design of the Monuments of Paris" Art Journal 48.1, Nineteenth-Century French Art Institutions (Spring 1989:16-22).
  3. ^ "Model prisons", The New York Times, 25 August 1873
  4. ^ Van Zanten 1989.
  5. ^ Noted in Van Zanten 1989:17.

External links[edit]

Media related to Guillaume-Abel Blouet at Wikimedia Commons