Henry Darger (1892-1973) grew up in Chicago and spent much of his childhood in a notorious Illinois asylum home after the death of his mother. After an escape, he returned to the city and worked as a janitor in several hospitals. But Darger was above all a writer and artist. He led an isolated life and spent most of his time alone.
Christianity, the American Civil War and the Second World War were subjects that Darger dealt with extensively. He got his inspiration from these themes. In addition, he could not escape his trauma from the past and his changing emotions clearly influenced his work, which mainly consisted of mixed media collages, drawn human figures, landscapes and a lot of text. His 15,000-page manuscript, ‘The Vivian Girls, in the Realms of the Unreal’, is possible the longest fictional work ever written.
Darger’s art was discovered by his landlord a few months before his death. When he had Darger’s apartment cleaned up, the landlord found endless piles of drawings, collages and writings. Not long afterwards, Henry Darger’s work became internationally known. His room has long been preserved as it was found. The living room that also functioned as a studio is now a permanent part of the Intuit collection in Chicago and can be visited in the American museum.
Watch a video about Henry Darger’s life:
Watch a video in which Henry Darger’s neighbors and landlady are talking about the book that Darger wrote, The Realms of the Unreal: