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Published on Jul 11, 2010
(F) Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, plus connu sous le nom de Ferdinand Cheval et plus encore sous le nom du facteur Cheval, (19 avril 1836 à Charmes-sur-l'Herbasse, Drôme, France -- 19 août 1924 à Hauterives, Drôme) est un facteur français. Il est célèbre pour avoir passé 33 ans de sa vie à édifier un « Palais idéal » et huit années supplémentaires à bâtir son propre tombeau, tous deux considérés comme des chefs-d'œuvre d'architecture naïve. (EN) Ferdinand Cheval (1836, Charmes-sur-l'Herbasse, Drôme -- 19 August 1924) was a French postman who spent 33 years of his life building Le Palais Idéal (the "Ideal Palace") in Hauterives. It is regarded as an extraordinary example of naïve art architecture. Ferdinand Cheval lived in Châteauneuf-de-Galaure, in the Drôme département of France. He had left school at the age of 13 to become a baker's apprentice but eventually became a postman. Cheval began the building in April 1879. He claimed that he had tripped on a stone and was inspired by its shape. He returned to the same spot the next day and started collecting stones. For the next 33 years, during his daily mail route, Cheval carried stones from his delivery rounds and at home used them to build his Palais idéal, the Ideal Palace. First he carried the stones in his pockets, then a basket and eventually a wheelbarrow. He often worked at night, by the light of an oil lamp. Cheval spent the first two decades building the outer walls. The Palace is a mix of different styles with inspirations from the Bible to Hindu mythology. Cheval bound the stones together with lime, mortar and cement. Cheval also wanted to be buried in his palace. However, since that is illegal in France, he proceeded to spend eight more years building a mausoleum for himself in the cemetery of Hauterives. Cheval died on August 19, 1924, around a year after he had finished building it, and is buried there. Just prior to his death, Cheval began to receive some recognition from luminaries like André Breton and Pablo Picasso. His work is commemorated in an essay by Anaïs Nin. In 1932 the German artist Max Ernst created a collage titled The Postman Cheval. The work belongs to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and is on display there. In 1958 Ado Kyrou made Le Palais idéal, a short film on the Palais idéal. In 1969 André Malraux, the Minister of Culture, declared the Palace as a cultural landmark and had it officially protected. Cheval's palace is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Cheval may have been the inspiration for the character of Denny in Chuck Palahniuk's 2001 novel Choke, who gathers a collection of stones which are eventually used, in similar fashion, to build his dream home (wikipedia)