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A FAMILY : The Guimets


Guimet’s Ultramarine

Pechiney Company


Guimet Museum in Lyon and Paris

Musée des Confluences in Lyon



Hubert GUIMET has been the mayor of FLEURIEU SUR SAONE since 1995. He comes from a famous family of industrialists whose history originally started in FLEURIEU SUR SAONE in the early 19th century.

Hubert Guimet’s great-great-grandfather, Jean-Baptiste GUIMET (1795-1871), a graduate engineer from the Ecole Polytechnique, invented the artificial Ultramarine Blue « le bleu Guimet » (1828). This invention started as a beautiful love story. His wife, a painter, as many other artists in the 19th century, used genuine Ultramarine made from the semi-precious gem lapis lazuli which was very costly at that time.    

Confident that his invention should not be limited to the use of artists, he decided to apply it to the industrial technique of “azurage” which was both a laundry taint and a whitening ingredient if used as a laundry detergent, (blue little pellets still present in today’s detergents) and he created his factory in FLEURIEU SUR SAONE in 1831.


 LE BLEU GUIMET html m139f6357  LE BLEU GUIMET html m419f6673
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In 1860, Jean-Baptiste’s son Emile (1836-1918) took over the business and developed the factory in FLEURIEU SUR SAONE: he expanded the buildings, built new smelting furnaces, created a train stop (the blue train) and a pier on the river Saône. In 1878, year of the World Fair, the factory employed 150 workers and produced 1000 tons of Ultramarine Blue.


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Emile GUIMET Le train bleu qui desservait LYON/NEUVILE SUR SAONE avec un arrêt à FLEURIEU/SAONE pour les ouvriers de l’usine GUIMET.


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Jean Guimet (1880 - 1920), Emile’s only son developed the family business and opened factories abroad. In 1940, the Blue Guimet represented 140 agents and 500 workers in the world for a production of 4 500 tons per year, including two thirds for the export market.

Jacques Émile Guimet (1908 - 1989), Jean’s only son, took over the business after WWII, and eventually sold it to a British competitor in 1967. Then, he created an industrial park on the former factory site in FLEURIEU SUR SAONE.

The Guimet Museum in Lyon closed in July 2007; its collections are being transferred to the future MUSEE DES CONFLUENCES in Lyon that will open in 2014.


LE BLEU GUIMET html m3c024ec6  LE BLEU GUIMET html 2905408e  LE BLEU GUIMET html 57666b14
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Émile GUIMET was until he died, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Henry Merle & Compagnie, which was created a few years earlier with family assets and will later become PECHINEY. The flourishing family company became in 1895 the limited company that we all know today.

While developing his industrial activities, Emile Guimet started travelling. His first trip dates back to 1865/1866 when he left for Egypt, a very fashionable destination at that time. He brought back lots of objects from that trip. To him, these objects were essential to understand civilizations.

In 1876-1877, he travelled around the world along with the painter Félix Régamey. He visited the World Fair in Philadelphia (USA) and spent some time in Japan, which left its mark on him.

Emile Guimet wanted to create a place where his objects could be displayed. He wanted that place to be, according to his own words, a « scientific factory ». A Guimet Museum of Religions opened in Lyon in 1879. The museum was a success, however Emile Guimet was disappointed by the cold welcoming of the town council and decided to donate his collections to the State in 1884. Then, a new museum opened its doors in Paris in 1888. That was a great success with the audiences.

The future MUSEE DES CONFLUENCES in LYON where the collections from the GUIMET Museum of LYON will soon be transferred

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7 octobre 2017:     Théâtre

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