In The Realms of Henry Darger

At The Museum of Everything on Saturday, I fell in love with the paintings of Henry Darger. I have never heard of this outsider artist before. The recluse from Chicago, the janitor who lived alone and died leaving hundreds of watercolour paintings illustrating an epic known as “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.”

His art is evocative of illustrations in children’s books and are often set in panoramic scale. The paintings remind me of the colouring books I loved as a child with the darkness of adulthood. This is no happily-ever-after land. The seven girls who are known as The Vivian Girls fight evil and protect each other from the sinister world of adults. And these girls are usually depicted as hermaphrodites.

What I love most about Henry Darger’s painting is the sincerity of his works. And of course it is sincere. It was never meant to be perceived as art. He was a lonely janitor with a tragic story to tell. A good literary accompaniment to his paintings is Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex.


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