Born in Quebec, François Baillairgé studied for two years at the school of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in Paris. The first part of his career was devoted largely to religious sculpture and painting. Several of his works can be seen at the church of Saint-François on Île d’Orléans and at the church of Saint-Joachim. His masterpiece was the decoration of Notre-Dame-de-Québec, which was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1922.
Baillairgé also played a major role in introducing neoclassical architecture to Quebec. He is responsible for designing the Quebec City Court House (1799) and Gaol (1808), as well as the gaol in Trois-Rivières (1815). These buildings are among the first to show British influence in Quebec’s architecture. However, Baillairgé states he was equally inspired by the works Frenchman Philibert de l’Orme. Although his two gaols were criticized for their design flaws, they are the first to demonstrate a certain utopian approach to architecture as an instrument of social change.