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Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings Hardcover – January 13, 2001

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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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


"Do you believe it, unlike most children, I hated to see the day come when I will be grown up. I never wanted to. I wished to be young always. I am a grownup now and an old lame man, darn it."--Henry Joseph Darger

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rizzoli (December 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847822842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847822843
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I've waited for a collection of Darger's work ever since I first saw a handful of originals on exhibit at the County Museum. This volume has a lot (over 100?) of high quality color reproductions of the Vivian Girls leading the sometimes bloody, cosmic child slavery rebellion against the invading Glandelinians, along with source material, and some interesting shots of Darger's studio/apartment.
There are also some pretty interesting writing excerpts from Darger's mammoth source material, REALMS OF THE UNREAL (which dwarfs the notebook writing of David Fincher's antagonists in SEVEN and FIGHT CLUB). It's pretty genuine, and the editors contend to've kept the editing to a crucial minimum.
Tim Burton, et al., can claim to be as weird or on the fringe as much as they want, but they don't hold a candle to someone with a real chemical imbalance.
It's pricey, but well worth it if you're a collector of this sort of stuff. Now, if only someone would make a comparable collection for Adolfo Wolfi...
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Format: Hardcover
Henry Darger (1892-1973) spent most of his life working as a dishwasher, janitor, and bandage roller at a hospital in Chicago. Darger's mother died in childbirth with his sister when Darger was 3 years old, and his father died when Darger was 15. The family was economically destitute, and the young Darger ended up in boys homes, orphanages, and such unsavory institutions as the "Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children" in Lincoln, Illinois. Darger lived most of his adult life in the same apartment, and when he died in 1973 his landlord found a number of homemade books containing three large manuscripts written and illustrated by Darger, each more than 5000 pages long.
The most important manuscript is the first, a 14 volume work titled "The Realms of the Unreal, or the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion," which Darger spent two decades writing and illustrating. This epic is the chronicled history of a 4-year war on an imaginary world. On this world, children have been enslaved and a war breaks out to free them. Spearheading the rebellion are the seven Vivian sisters, little girl heroes--figures which seem to have been based, at least partly, on Joan of Arc. Among the story's other main influences are Frank L. Baum's Oz books, the works of Charles Dickens, and the history of the American Civil War.
Darger's artwork is both imaginatively vivid and disturbing. Most of the art involves little girls as the heroes and the victims, with men and supernatural creatures called "the Blegiglomenean Serpents" (or, "the Blengins") as their oppressors. The little girls are often depicted in idyllic portraits; however, they are also often shown being strangled or killed in battle. Also, they are often nude, and sometimes portrayed as hermaphrodites with male genitals. Much of Darger's work is composed of individual figures traced from magazines or comics. Artistically, Darger is compared with figures as diverse as Blake and Andy Warhol.
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Format: Hardcover
There have been several things written about Henry Darger and his art but this book is the definitive work. If you want to understand Henry Darger and get a full appreciation of his genius,, read this book and enjoy the beautiful illustrations.
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