Artist Henry Darger

I first heard of Henry Darger when I saw the film In the Realms of the Unreal, a documentary about his life and art. Darger, who was an extreme recluse, created mixed media artwork from images from books, catalogs and magazines, which he traced, pasted, copied, and overdrew. His sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbingly violent art was illustration for a book he was creating about his own vivid imaginary world, inhabited by androgenous children suffering and fighting through a long and bloody war. He called the book The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.


The inspiration for the book was a newspaper photograph of Elsie Paroubek, who was murdered at the age of five. Darger himself was orphaned and confined to a lunatic asylum (whose practices included forced labor and harsh punishment) as a child, and wrote in his autobiography about his desire to protect abused and neglected children. Aside from his own enigmatic art and writing, Darger’s personality remains a mystery. He was very socially isolated, and never showed his artwork or discussed it with anyone. His thousands of collage/paintings were found by his landlords while he was away at the hospital shortly before he died. At the time of his death, his book was 15,000 pages long.

More Darger art (I have not included any images of violence) is posted here.


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