Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings

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9780847822843: Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings

In the quarter century since the death of Henry Darger--and the discovery of the astonishing cache of artworks and writings he left behind--this reclusive Chicago janitor has become recognized as one of the most important outsider artists of the twentieth century in America.

This book provides the first comprehensive survey of Darger's art and writings. Included are reproductions of approximately 114 of Darger's collage drawings and fifteen selections from his writings, focusing on his life's work. In the Realms of the Unreal, which is an account of a cosmic struggle against child slavery unfolding on a planet vastly larger than our own. This battle between the forces of good--led by the intrepid Vivian sisters--and the evil Glandelinian nations, was illustrated and extended in Darger's art, including the mural-size watercolor drawings that represent his mature achievement as an artist.

Michael Bonesteel, a Chicago-based art critic and authority on outsider art, provides an introduction to Darger's work and narrates the Dickensian circumstances of his childhood which, along with his profound religious faith and doubt, shaped his extraordinary sensibility. A true American original, Henry Darger combined an unquestionable innocence with a dark and sometimes deeply disturbing vision to create a body of work of originality and lasting impact.

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Review:

The voluminous works of Henry Darger were discovered after his death in 1973 by his landlord in a crowded and almost derelict apartment on Chicago's Northside. Among the piles of newspapers, magazines, and hundreds of balls of twine were scrapbooks made from telephone books and an entire lifetime of creative work. Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings is an amazing window into the extraordinary world of this outsider artist.

In order to escape his unhappy childhood in a mental institution and his reclusive adult life, Darger created his own salvation in the form of an intricate fantasy world of drawings and stories revolving around a set of little girl heroines, with vivid watercolors and collages of children engaged in battles against their enemies. The images are violent and strange, yet they achieve a fragile beauty. His work has taken a long time to gain attention in part due to his disturbing "obsession with little girls ... as hermaphrodites with small penises--and worse, a significant number of works that graphically depicted the strangulation, evisceration, and wholesale slaughter of children." Beyond the graphic nature of the artwork is a story that intertwines religion, superstition, loneliness, and bravery. This remarkable book offers the chance to take a journey through the life, mind, and creative process of a true artist, and it includes entries from his personal diaries and chapters from his fictional saga, "In the Realms of the Unreal." --J.P. Cohen

About the Author:

Henry Joseph Darger was born in Chicago on April 12, 1892. Four years later his mother died during childbirth. When his father became unable to care for him, Henry went first to a boys' home and later to the Lincoln Asylum in downstate Illinois. After his father's ddeath, he ran away to Chicago where he lived the rest of his life, worknig as a janitor, dishwasher, and bandage roller in three local hospitals. By night he wrote his great unfinished novel, In the Realms of the Unreal, and later created the artworks for which he is best known. He died in 1973.

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