The Claude and Clovis Prévost Collection 22 documents dans la collection
Claude Lenfant Prévost is an author and filmmaker. She has a Bachelor’ degree in Science and Human Sciences and, among other things, collaborated in the writing : La vision artistique et religieuse de Gaudí of Clovis Prévost and Robert Descharnes, Dix recettes d’immortalité de Salvador Dali and Raymond Isidore, dit Picassiette, de Chartres with Clovis Prévost. She also took part in the making of the André Malraux. Les métamorphoses du regard and Les Bâtisseurs de l’imaginaire film series alongside Clovis Prévost.
Clovis Prévost is a filmmaker, photographer and author. In 1962, after working on the architecture of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, he turned his attention to Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace. As Director of Galerie Maeght’s film department, he made a good many short films with Antoni Tàpies and Joan Miró. Between 1976 and 1981, he teamed up with Claude Prévost to codirect the television series Les Bâtisseurs de l’imaginaire. Fascinated by art brut, he used the series to present a wide selection of self-taught creators, including Picassiette and Robert Tatin. He devoted a short film to Postman Cheval entitled Le Facteur Cheval ou Le songe devient la réalité. As a writer, his works include co-authorship of Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval: quand le songe devient réalité with Claude Prévost and Jean-Pierre Jouve, and Les Bâtisseurs de l'imaginaire with Claude Prévost.
RESEARCH WORK :
Before embarking on their major research work on Postman Cheval, Claude and Clovis Prévost were already interested in self-taught “creators of shadows” such as Monsieur G. The idea was to carry out comparative research on a number of unusual sites. On their way to Barcelona to study Gaudi’s architectural vision as expressed in the Sagrada Familia, they felt compelled to stop off at the Ideal Palace in Hauterives. With Gaudi in Barcelona, the Prévosts’ interest bore on a masterly and highly erudite form of architecture. On the road there, they came across this space constructed and developed by a simple self-taught man provided with none of the classical cultural baggage. With this wondrous Ideal Palace built by a country postman in Drôme, the question of creation came very much to the fore.
They started out by approaching the Ideal Palace through the medium of photography, organising several photo sessions over time, in different seasons, in the hope of better understanding the site and its creator. In the beginning, their work was largely intuitive. Later, though, they began to ask questions, carry out more theoretical research and provide interpretations. Then came the film project, which, unlike photography, could chart the movement and passage of time specific to the Palace’s architecture.
As regards division of research work, Claude took care of the documentary side of things. She worked in libraries, consulted archives and met with notaries. She was interested in the origins of the Palace’s construction, Drôme’s rural environment, patois and beliefs. Clovis concentrated on creative aspects. He was responsible for the book’s mockup and puzzled over layout and choice of documents and photographs. Together, they met with people who had known the Postman and who shared their memories of him. Their testimonies were included in a France Culture broadcast in 1994. Work was carried out in close collaboration with Jean-Pierre Jouve, Architect for Historical Monuments responsible for restoring the Palace, who asked them to create a file on the creation’s “hows and whys”. At the exhibition mounted by the National Centre for Visual Arts (CNAP) in 1980, and with the help of holograms, the challenge was to re-create the magical aspects of the dream at the origin of the Palace and, by doing so, shed light on this out-of-the-ordinary architectural creation in sympathetic and non-scientific fashion.
THE COLLECTION’S INTEREST:
These archives are of great interest from a historical, architectural, literary and artistic point of view. They are fascinating on two levels: as in-depth documentation of a man and his work and as immersion in a personal method of prospection and research developed by two researchers.
First of all, the collection provides exhaustive documentation of the private man, so enabling rapid reconstruction of his genealogy and knowledge of the people he knew. Notarised documents evidence all the loans, divisions, purchases and transactions made up to the purchase of the land he was to build the Palace on, and so give us an idea of the Postman’s financial situation at different periods.
Details of the Postman’s library tell us a great deal about the Palace’s genesis and his sources of inspiration. It is interesting to note the many parallels between the Palace’s motifs and various engravings contained in works that belonged to him, as well as artworks that very probably helped inspire its construction.
The collection also contains several really remarkable items, starting with a photographed copy of the Postman’s journal, the original of which has since been lost. It is accompanied by the Palace’s visitors’ register, livened up with comments from the Postman himself.
The correspondence is of particular interest as it bears witness to the relationships that the Postman maintained with various leading newspaper editors of the day, who sometimes asked him to provide very specific information on the Palace. Their exchanges are all the more illuminating in that we also have the Postman’s replies to some of the letters he received. Correspondence with Germany, Great Britain and the United States also enables us to gauge the Palace’s reputation abroad. Press cuttings cover an extensive period, from 1904 to the 2000s. The growing numbers of articles that appeared in French and foreign newspapers, reviews and magazines over the course of the years enable chronological measurement of the constantly renewed interest shown in the Palace.
The photograph collection, made up of numerous vintage prints, contains a wealth of material. The Palace is seen as the photographers saw it. Their photos guide the eye, revealing the Palace and becoming artworks in their turn.
The collection also evidences Postman Cheval’s passion for writing and poetry. In this respect, there is a major focus on the inscriptions on the Palace’s walls. The links he forged with the writers, poets, and great names of his day, and the contributions that some of them made in the form of verses and texts on the history of the Palace, are clear enough proof of this passion. Here again, such links enable us to measure how far the Palace already provided a source of inspiration for many artists.
Consultation of the collection also reveals a research initiative of extraordinary thoroughness. Its creators’ took a documentary approach, and their research left numerous traces in its wake: a mass of notes, sketches, calculations, letters to notaries asking for documentation, and handwritten and typewritten transcriptions of letters and articles.
The collection also provides us with material on the many and various uses made of their research: the book, the film, the radio broadcast, exhibitions, the play, and so on – all of which bear witness to a determination to break free of strictly documentary research and appreciate the Palace for what it is, in subjective, non-scientific fashion. A choice very much in line with the vision at the origin of its creation. The dream must not be bereft of its magic.
Find the inventory of the Claude and Clovis Prévost Collection here
- Le fonds Claude et Clovis Prévost