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Henry Darger

1892 – 1973

Above: Henry Darger, portrait by David Bergland

An orphaned child, the reclusive Henry Darger spent his early years in a Chicago institution, and much of his adult life working as a hospital porter while living alone in a cheap rented room. In complete isolation, he feverishly explored his inner world by writing and drawing. 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 is a 15-volume epic describing a war between a group of innocent children and a pack of child-slave owners. 

Image: Henry Darger, At Jennie Richee - Narrowly escape capture when attacked by Glandelinians (detail), c. 1940s-1960s, private collection

The stories were illustrated using a technique of traced images cut from magazines and catalogues, arranged in huge panoramic landscapes and painted in delicate watercolours. Some are as large as 30 ft / 10 m wide, and many are painted on both sides of the paper. Subject matter ranges from idyllic childhood scenes in Edwardian interiors and tranquil flowered landscapes, to scenes of horrific terror and carnage showing the girls being tortured and massacred. Darger wrote himself into the narrative as the children’s protector. His legacy of thousands of pages of typed texts, hand-bound in huge volumes, and hundreds of paintings, was discovered by his landlord shortly before Darger’s death.


This is an extract from our new and improved Outsider Art Sourcebook, featuring 250 artists and environmental builders. Available to purchase here.


Having sold thousands of copies around the world, the Sourcebook has proved itself to be an indispensable guide to the world of Outsider Art, essential for all enthusiasts and collectors of Outsider Art, as well as a fascinating introduction to the different facets of the genre.


Coming in the next issue...

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40 years of Collection L’Art Brut

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Larry Palsson

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Gil Batle

Intricately carved ostrich egg shells depict moving narratives of US prison life.


Loic Lucas

Microscopically detailed drawings by self-taught artist from France.