February 08, 2009

Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, le Palais Idéal/The Ideal Palace

The Palais Idéal is among the best known art environments in the world. It is quite possible this creation inspired other outsiders (in France and elsewhere) to make their creations and it is quite sure that it aroused the interest of mainstream artists and writers (like André Breton, who discovered the Palais in 1931).

old postcard with Cheval posing in front of his creation

Life and works

Joseph Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) from the small community of Hauterives, south of Lyon, France, was a postman (in french a facteur). It was his job to distribute the post to the inhabitants of his district, a walk of 32 kilometers he daily made.

The story has been told many times: one day doing his 32 kms he stumbled upon a rock, was surprised by its form and got the idea to realise the dream he sometimes had during his post distributing tours: to create a beautiful building.

Starting in 1879, when in his early fourties, Cheval continued this creative job for 33 years, all by himself, just using simple utensils.

In 1912 he had completed his creation: a building 26 m (85 ft) wide, 14 m (46 ft) deep and between 8 and 10 m 26/33 ft) high

Cheval had said he wanted to be buried in his Palais, but the authorities would not allow this, so on the local cemetery he also constructed a tomb. It took him some eight years to complete it.

He has been buried there in 1924.


It took some time before official France acknowledged the importance of facteur Cheval´s achievement, but despite strong opposition, in 1969 France's Culture Minister formally declared that the site was a Monument Historique.

It took some more time before the national Musée de la Poste did honour facteur Cheval, but in 2007 an exposition in this Paris museum was organised in respect to his life and creative work.

Owned by the city of Hauterives since 1994, the site attracts over a 100.000 visitors a year. It can be visited daily the year round.

The internet has a lot of information on the Palais Idéal.
I just mention some sources I especially like:
The official website of the Palais Idéal 
* Website by Kristin Fiore, in english, with biography, lots of pictures and additional information about outsider environments
* Article on SPACES website, with some photo's made in 1988 by Seymour Rosen and other photo's (2008) by Pavel Konečný
* Clovis and Claude Prévost,  Le facteur Cheval, où le songe devient réalité (the dream becomes reality), a classic french movie made in 2001, 26'37" (link connects to trailer, full video can be ordered through INA-France)
* Website Habitants-paysagistes (by Lille Art Museum from march 2018 on) with a large variety of photographs (1990) by Francis David and documentary panels (1984-2001) by André Escard
* A video (uploaded jan 2010 to Youtube), made by the Moscow Museum of Outsider Art (russian spoken).

first published feb 2009, last revised march 2018

Joseph Ferdinand (Facteur) Cheval
le Palais Ideal
8, rue du Palais
26390 Hauterives, dept Drome, region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
can be visited the year round, 
for opening hours see official website

No comments:

Post a Comment