European Escapades

Ferdinand Cheval – Postman or Artist?




<br /> Ferdinand Cheval – Postman or Artist?<br />

It’s an interesting stop off and one that has been created by a postman. But as with most people’s lives, we all wear different hats at different times. It is true that Ferdinand Cheval is sworn in at the age of thirty one as a postman and it seems it is also true that his profession awoke something more in this simple and uneducated man. I myself, driving around the country on my own as a computer engineer had many an hour to just think. For Ferdinand the thoughts took the shape of a fairy palace, distracting him as he walked the same surroundings on his rounds. It was not until April 1879 that these thoughts turned into reality.

The Three Giants
The Three Giants.

“My foot caught on a stone, almost tripping me up. I wanted to know what it was and I saw a stumbling block of such strange shape that I dropped it into my pocket in order to admire it at my leisure. I went back to the same place and found even more beautiful stones; and I said to myself, since nature wants to sculpt, I will produce masonry and architecture.”

Palm Trees
Palm Trees.

Thirty three years later, 4000 bags of lime and cement and 1000 cubic metres of stonework is complete. Named the Palais Ideal, from a poem dedicated to F. Cheval it stands as a testament to the dreams of a man born in a time of exploration and adventure. With Jules Verne around the world in eighty days published in 1872 and a geographic magazine, read by Cheval during his career and he morphs from a postman to an artist, giving us one of the finest pieces of architectural naive art and a springboard for the imagination of other people that came later such as Picasso and Breton.

Our first impression of the monument was Antoni Goudi and the Sagrada Familia that was started three years later in Barcelona. That’s not to say Goudi ever visited Hautervies but to our untrained eyes there is a remarkable resemblance in style. Was it of the time, or did it need two genii of the imagination to come up with this evocative style. It is true that Cheval’s work shows a more rustic and natural charm with the use of snail shells, sea shells and natural stones. But that does not detract from the majesty of the work; it only adds wonder to what is already a wondrous thing. From admiring the three majestic giants and the Barbary tower of the east face, to the reliefs within the labyrinth of the primitive elephant, the ostrich and the flamingo. Heading down to Provence? then stop off at the large Motorhome aires in this wonderful little village and go see a visionary artists work for yourself.

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 6:38 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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