Monday, April 9, 2012

henry darger

Henry Darger was born in 1892 and worked as a custodian
from 1930 until his death in 1973.

He led an isolated life,
and lived in a small one room apartment in Chicago, Illinois.

His mother died while giving birth to his sister,
and in 1905, when Henry is only 13 years old,
his father dies.

Henry is placed in an asylum for feeble minded children
where it is said that he suffered years of abuse.

He escapes the asylum at the age of 16
and begins his life long work as a custodian
in a Catholic hospital.

He attends mass up to 4 times a day.

He becomes passionate about the protection of children.

Upon his death, in his small apartment,
they discover his secret world

of writings,


various collections,

several years of newspapers,

and journals.

Between 1909 and 1921, 
Henry wrote (in longhand!)
a 19,000 page novel known today as:
In the Realms of the Unreal.

There were hundred of paintings
and illustrations -
many depicting children being persecuted by adults.

Paintings were done on large sheets of paper stuck together,
some measuring over 4 feet in height
and up to 12 feet long.

Stories like this fascinate me.

How a man can live such a secluded life
and go so unnoticed
and so unloved
until after his death.

(Henry Darger)

His paintings are now exhibited
in several galleries and museums,
including the Museum of Modern Art
and the American Folk Art Museum (both in NY)

In 2008, INUIT: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (in Chicago)
opened a permanent exhibit of the Henry Darger room...

a small room recreated to look like his
Chicago apartment,

where he lived as an artist,

and did what he felt compelled to do:



  1. Wasn't he absolutely fascinating??? I discovered him through a documentary from the library about three years ago and was stunned not only by his creativity, but at how he meticulously wrote everything down.

    Thank you for reminding me about him.

  2. I wonder how many people we actually know that have a "secret" side like this man. I guess many more than we imagine.
    Thanks for the story. :)

  3. What a beautifully sad story. Thanks so much for sharing Pauline!

  4. Really loved reading this. I am not familiar with this artist and his story is really interesting and sad. Thanks for sharing Pauline.

  5. Thanks for reminding me about his story - his work is so fascinating. It's good to know that the work is being seen.

  6. So, so interesting. I am glad to have learned so much about him:)Thank you!

  7. Thanks for sharing :).
    Stay inspired!

  8. Thank You for sharing such and interesting story...I will definitely be doing some research on his life and work.

  9. Thank you all for the comments.
    Paula, yes, I agree. i'm guessing there are other similar secret lives out there we don't know about. Yet.

    Have a great week folks! xoxo

  10. Wonderful story of this man! I think all of us have creative urges that want to be expressed. It is sad that he couldn't get any recognition during his lifetime. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Wow! This is an amazing story- next time I am in Chicago I Am going to check it out!

  12. Oh my... such a wonderful story, THANK YOU for sharing! :]
    I would love to see his journals, could you imagine?

  13. Pauline this is such a touching story, thanks for sharing this with us. Have yourself a happy creative week!

  14. I've read about him..and seen some of his work. He is a true inspiration - in the sense that he created only as his own personal expression.
    Love your so glad I finally stopped in to visit!

  15. Wow! What a fascinating post ~ 'way of an artist life' ~ he was true to himself ~ now he in museums ~ He did art for love ~ I think ~ thanks, namaste, ^_^

  16. this IS an amazing story. I saw the exhibit years ago at the American Folk Art Museum. I lived in the neighborhood and would check in every so often and was truly, truly lucky to have the opportunity to see this show. The art was amazing.

  17. April - yes, i KNOW! Can you imagine reading those journals?
    Carol - I also believe he made art out of love.
    Fran - OMG... you lucky woman you. It's one thing to see the images on screen, but it must be so awesome to see them in person. xoxo

  18. Yes! Henry Darger was an absolutely incredible human being, in his own gentle, private, quiet, unassuming way. I have seen 'In the Realms of the Unreal' at least 9 or 10 times now, and each time I watch it, I become re-inspired, re-ignited creativity-wise. I would have loved to have seen the exhibit in the American Folk Art Museum - it must have been an incredible as well as a very moving, touching experience. Thank you so much for telling more people about this amazing man and artist.