Joseph Ferdinand Cheval’s Ideal Palace

Joseph Ferdinand Cheval’s Le Palais Ideal (Ideal Palace)
Hauterives, France

Joseph Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924), or Le Facteur, was a postman from Hauterives, France. Cheval was inspired to build Le Palais Ideal (the Ideal Palace) after tripping on a stone in 1879. From that point on he gathered stones daily for his structure as he delivered mail. He eventually collected so many he needed to use a wheelbarrow to transport them. 

He worked on the Ideal Palace for 33 years, until 1912. Once that was finished, Cheval, who was 75, announced that he wished to be buried in it, but he was refused permission. Instead he started work on a complicated tomb nearby which he finished a year before his death.

In 1969 the Minister of Culture of France declared the site a cultural landmark. This environment is considered one of the greatest examples of surrealist architecture, and famed artists like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp visited the site. Today The Ideal Palace is open to the public as a museum.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens’ founder Isaiah Zagar has painted several tiles to pay tribute to Cheval. A tile with his face and the initials J.F.C. can be found in the middle gallery at PMG. A large drawing over many tiles can be found adjacent to the front bathroom that shows Cheval and his wife standing in front of the Ideal Palace.

Biography and photos
Video “Le Palais Ideal: The Precursor to Outsider Art,” an installment of You Are Here by public broadcasting France 24 (6 minutes; 2016)
Book “Palais idéal du facteur Cheval” by Gérard Denizeau (2011)

Button Photograph Credit:
Top Photograph Credit: @jojojo07 –