Friday, March 04, 2005

Palais Idéal

Ferdinand Cheval was a French postman who in 1879 tripped on a stone, and the shape of the stone inspired him to build a castle. He spent the following 33 years building his vision with stones collected along the daily mail route. Locals regarded him as a village idiot. His work is the Palais idéal.

Simultaneously, the organic visons of the Catalan architect Gaudí were materializing in Barcelona. Gaudí spent the last years of his life obsessed with the greatest of his works, the still unfinished church La Sagrada Familia.

About a century before Le Palais Idéal and La Sagrada Familia, in the phantasmagoria of an opium-induced dream, Coleridge received a poem, the Kubla Khan, that relates the construction of a palace by mongol emperor Kublai Khan. He awoke and began transcribing it, but someone at the door interrupted him and most of the Kubla Khan was lost for ever. Twenty years later appeared the first Western version of an old Persian book that Coleridge couldn't possibly know, and it read: "To the East of Shangtu, Kublai Khan erected a palace, according to a plan he had seen in a dream and kept in his memory."

Today, a century after Cheval and Gaudi, two centuries after Coleridge, and seven centuries after Kublai Khan, visonary artist Alex Gray is building the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.

Some links:
El sueño de Coleridge from Other Inquisitions (1952), Borges
Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Raw Vision magazine (outsider art)
Collection de l'Art Brut
Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval (requires Flash)
Palais Idéal photo gallery
Life and Works of Gaudí
Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia

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