Ferdinand Cheval and his extraordinary structure truly embody the spirit of surrealism and became an inspiration for a number of artists such as André Breton, Picasso, Tinguely and Max Ernst who have all created works in homage to this postman from the Drome region of France.
Jonathan Glancey, the Guardian's architecture and design correspondent, included The Palais Ideal in his list of favourite weird and wonderful designs. 'Give Us A Swirl' --
"A village postman from the remote Drome province of southern France, Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) spent 33 years creating an "ideal palace" from stones gathered on his daily 32km round. Poorly educated and with no knowledge of architecture, he shaped his surreal palace from daydreams, without help.
Considered a madman by fellow locals (whose descendents live off his legacy today, the palace being a big tourist attraction), Cheval was hailed by artists and intellectuals, from Breton and the surrealists to Picasso. Here was - and is - a work of wholly spontaneous surrealist art, a man's dreams turned into a gloriously abstract work of architecture.The Palais Idéal is overwhelmingly bizarre, its handmade architecture drawing its inspiration from what appear to be sources as diverse as Khmer temples, Swiss chalets, Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria and Hindu shrines - despite Cheval's lack of learning, books or photographs. Some of the palace looks as if Gaudí had a hand in it, and the petrified fountain could easily be by Dalí. Today, Cheval's lifelong work is a national monument."
The most recent homage to Ferdinand Cheval now hangs at the entrance to the Palais Ideal Museum. The American artist Tim Shepard was inspired by the idea that as Cheval followed his postal route through the landscape around Hauterives it was this life, daily immersed in the forms from nature which provided the foundation upon which the Palais was built. Over several days in the summer of 2009 Shepard spent the morning and afternoon retracing Cheval's postal route ending up each day in the late afternoon at the Palais itself. "In doing so I gained such a strong sense of the relationship between the landscape and Cheval's own formidable expression of it." Shepard creates photomontages by combining together hundreds of photographs taken whilst visiting particular sites and landscapes. " I am interested in creating landscapes which exist somewhere between reality and imagination -- very much in the way one might remember a landscape or dream of a place where one has been. I like the idea of taking into sleep the things of the day and tearing them up in our mind to recombine them into dreams. Everything in my pictures exist -- they are photographs of actual things and are not altered in any way -- but after cutting up all these various elements they come together again and express something of the essence or spirit of the place rather than the actual place itself."