Jean-Louis Charles Garnier

Portrait of Jean-Louis Charles Garnier

Jean-Louis Charles Garnier was a French architect best known for his elaborate and ornate style. He was born in Paris on 6th November 1825 and died on 3rd August 1898 in Paris aged 72. 

Major Works

“Le Théâtre” (1871) 
Palais Garnier or Paris Opera House (1861-75)
Opera House at Monte Carlo (1875)
Tomb of Jacques Offenbach (1880)


Jean-Louis Charles Garnier was born on 6th November 1825 on the Rue Mouffetard in Paris. His father, Jean André Garnier, was originally from the Loire. He was a blacksmith, coachbuilder and wheelwright and when he arrived in Paris he set up a carriage rental business. His mother was Felicia Colle. Charles was educated as an apprentice to Louis-Hippolyte Lebas.

 1842: He attends the Ecole Royal des Beaux-Arts. 

1848: He is awarded the Premier Grand Prix de Rome and is allowed to study in Italy.

1849: He becomes a pensioner of the Academie de France a Rome and stays there until 1853.

1853: His earlier travels through Greece gave him ideas for his submission to the Paris Salon.

1860: He wins the competition to design the new Paris Opera House from a list of 170 applicants. 

1861: Construction of the Paris Opera begins.

1870: The Emperor Napoleon the Third is defeated at the Battle of Sedan during the Franco Prussian war and is deposed.

1871: Paris is besieged by the Prussians and the unfinished Opera is used as a warehouse and a military prison. Garnier publishes his book “Le Théâtre”.

1872: He designs the casino and baths at Vittel and his holiday villa in Borighera on the Italian Riviera.

1874: He is named as a member of the Institut de France in the architecture department of the Academie des Beaux-Arts.

1875: Work on the Paris Opera is completed.

1876: He designs the Grand Concert Hall for the Monte-Carlo Casino which later became the Opera de Monte-Carlo. He publishes “Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris” a description of his work.

1878: The Monte-Carlo Opera is completed. 

1879: He designs the Nice Astronomical Observatory. 

1880: He designs the Marigny Theatre in Paris.

1889: For the Paris Exposition Garnier has the idea for the Exposition des Habitations Humaines, which also became the subject of his book “L’Habitation Humaine” (published in 1892).

1894: He designs his last work on the Rue Berthier in Paris, the Ateliers Berthier of the Odeon-Theatre de l’Europe.

1896: He retires from private practice. 

Jean-Louis Charles Garnier died of a second stroke on 3rd August 1898. He was buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery. 

Further Information

Information from archINFORM Architecture database including list of works by Garnier.