French Catholic priest and antiquarian who specialized in the Upper Palaeolithic of northern Europe. Ordained as a priest in 1900, he never took up parish duties, as he was allowed to spend his time doing archaeology. A fine draughtsman, he devoted great energy to recording cave paintings and rock art. He worked out a sequence of four distinctive art styles and related these to ideas of sympathetic magic whereby the paintings represented an attempt to ensure success during hunting. He visited many European countries, including England, Romania, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. He worked in North Africa, visited China twice, studied rock art in Ethiopia, and spent the period 1942–5 in South Africa collecting flint tools and studying rock art.
A. H. Brodwick, 1963, The Abbé Breuil, prehistorian; a biography. London: Hutchinson