Ferdinand Cheval Palace
Hauterives Palais

Europe > Western Europe > France > Art Brut at Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives

Art Brut at Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval in Hauterives

Visit the most famous monument of the French Art Brut: Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval, in the French community of Hauterives.

Beyond all that Paris offers, in France there are places you can’t miss. You might prefer to visit ancient cities like Strasbourg, Dijon or Nîmes, or a destination on the coast like Montpellier or Port Grimaud. No matter what you choose, you’ll find endless activities to do and places to discover. Such is the case of the Palais idéal of the postman Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, in the south of France.

The Outstanding Palais idéal of Joseph Ferdinand Cheval

Standing in front of  Cheval’s Ideal Palace, our imagination takes us to an exotic land in Asia or Africa. The questions are inevitable: Is it an oriental palace dedicated to Hindu mythology? Or is it the work of an architect with very particular modernist influences?

Actually, this amazing architectonic work is found in France, specifically in Hauterives. This village is located in the Rhône-Alps region, southeast of the Gallic country. It’s might not be the most traditional work of art, but DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, guarantees it will impress you. It has amazing shapes and multiple references to a large number of cultures. Moreover, the history of its construction is worthy of admiration.

Construction of the Ideal Palace of Ferdinand Cheval 

As incredible as it may sound, it all began with a stone in the middle of the road, in 1879. Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, a postman from the department of Drôme, told his story years later. It all began when in one of his deliveries he stumbled upon a stone whose curious shape caught his attention. The following day, he found several other stones in the same area. That gave him the idea to build a structure with those findings. From that day on, he started to collect stones to build what he called an “Ideal Palace” in his own garden. He worked on the project for 33 years under his neighbors’ inquisitive look, who thought he was eccentric and even a little disturbed.

Cultural Influences of Le Palais Idéal

As if Cheval wanted to include cultural aspects from all around the world, the Ideal Palace reflects different influences of which he was aware. That’s why there are biblical, mythological and historical elements distributed throughout the different façades. The eastern façade, which Cheval himself called the “Temple of Nature” took him twenty years of construction. On it, you can see caves and waterfalls, as well as an Egyptian monument and a Hindu temple. You can also see three giants that seem to guard the entrance and that represent Caesar, Vercingetorix and Archimedes. The western façade presents a variety of architectural styles with miniatures of countless cultures. It also has imitations of the most diverse buildings that range from a mosque to a medieval castle. The southern area is dedicated to ancient cultures, as a sort of museum.

The Ideal Palace, considered by some people as monstrous or insane, was almost destroyed, despite being applauded by artists such as André Breton and Pablo Picasso. However, in 1969, the French writer and politician André Malraux worked to make the Ideal Palace of Ferdinand Cheval be considered as Cultural Heritage. That way he guaranteed its conservation. You can visit the official website of the Palais idéal of Ferdinand Cheval to learn more about visiting hours here.

What is Outsider Art or Art Brut?

The postman Cheval had no university degree or architectural studies. He was self-taught and guided only by his instinct and enthusiasm. He worked for more than three decades to build this palace without anyone’s help. Today, the monument has visitors from all around the world. It is considered one of the best representatives of the so-called Art Brut or Outsider art. This term is used to refer to the type of works made outside the official norm.

Ferdinand Cheval’s Mausoleum 

Ferdinand Cheval even requested to be buried in his palace, but he never obtained the license to do so. Therefore, he bought a plot of land in the cemetery of Hauterives in order to build his own mausoleum. It is a small replica of his Palais idéal. The work took another eight years to be finished. He was 88, and he passed away soon after.

Now that you know more about this monument of Ferdinand Cheval, pack your bags for a unique trip. Walk through Hauterives and imagine what inspired Cheval to build his Palais idéal. And remember that a  great dream begins with a stone in the middle of the road. Don’t forget to share your experience in the ideal Palace of Ferdinand Cheval with us.