Henry Darger led a quiet life in Chicago. He went to work every day as a janitor and went to church on the weekends. He was shy, had few friends and preferred a simple life. But after his death in 1973, his landlords discovered something amazing while cleaning out his apartment.
They discovered that for the last sixty years of Darger's life, he'd been working on an illustrated novel, called "In the Realms of the Unreal". This massive tome was over 15,000 pages long, and some of its illustrations were over ten feet long. It tells the fictitious story of the Vivian sisters, who led a rebellion of slave children against their captors. Its full, formal title is “The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.”
He was a lifelong collector of religious icons and images of childhood.
Here is the 15,145-page manuscript of “In the Realms of the Unreal.” Darger invented a whole world, complete with planetary orbits, dragon-like monsters and its own Christian iconography. Darger was very religious and staunchly advocated for the rights of children.
His style employs several artistic techniques, including multimedia collage.
The often violent imagery has caused some historians to believe the novel was Darger's way of coping with his own childhood abuse. He grew up maltreated in the Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children, and it is now thought that his current-day diagnosis would be Asperger Syndrome.
As the figures repeat throughout the novel, Darger would trace the illustrations from other sources.
Considered "outsider art" today, selected pieces of Darger's work can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art and the American Folk Art Museum. His work can sell for over $80,000. Darger’s project is the subject of a documentary, here:
Credit: Messy Nessy Chic