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Darger, Henry (1892-1973)  
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At the same time, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris, among many other museums, purchased and exhibited Darger's paintings.

Darger's work also became the subject of several scholarly books and numerous reviews, articles, and essays, as well as the inspiration for gay poet John Ashbery's book-length poem Girls on the Run (1999).

In 2004, Academy Award winner Jessica Yu released her beautifully-crafted documentary In the Realms of the Unreal: The Mystery of Henry Darger. Most recently, Jim Elledge published his biography, Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist (2013).

Interest in Darger initially developed out of critics' interest in the "little girls with penises." The much-parroted accusations of pedophilia, serial murder, and sadism (along with the less-libelous, but no less incorrect characterization of the artist as hermit and misfit) did little to dampen interest in his work and, in fact, may even have enhanced it.

Yet, more objective critics have focused their attention on Darger's craft and themes and praised his ability to bridge the huge gap between his lack of training and his ability to paint intriguing scenes despite it.

They were also captivated by his deft use of collage, his appropriation of figures from comic strips and coloring books, his expert use of watercolor to produce brilliant scenes that captivate the eye, and his unflinching portrayals of brutality aimed at children.

Indeed, Darger has sustained the attention of art lovers and critics by virtue of his artistic achievement rather than the sensationalism that initially inspired interest.

Discovered only months before he died on April 13, 1973, Darger's manuscripts and paintings are testament to his ability to rise above the obstacles in his life to create a unique and powerful body of work.

Jim Elledge

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Bullough, Vern L., and Martha Voght. "Homosexuality and Its Confusion with the 'Secret Sin' in Pre-Freudian America." Journal of the History of Medicine 28.2 (April 1973): 143-155.

Darger, Henry. Further Adventures in Chicago: Crazy House. Unpublished MS., n.d. (Microfilm. New York: American Folk Art Museum Library.)

_____. The History of My Life . Unpublished MS., n.d. (Microfilm. New York: American Folk Art Museum Library.)

_____. 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. Unpublished MS., n.d. (Microfilm. New York: American Folk Art Museum Library.)

Elledge, Jim. Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist. New York: Overlook Press, 2013.

_____. "My Days and Nights with Henry Darger." POV Essay. (December 1, 2013):

"Good News for Boys." Chicago Daily Tribune (February 2, 1884): 13.

Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children. "Application for Admission." 5007 [Henry J. Dodger (Darger)]. November 16, 1904. Record Group 254.004. Illinois State Archives, Springfield, Ill.


    Citation Information
    Author: Elledge, Jim  
    Entry Title: Darger, Henry  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2013  
    Date Last Updated December 9, 2013  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq,Inc.  


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