L’ART BRUT

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Darger, Henry


Portrait de Henry Darger

photo: David Berglund
@ photo credit
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne

Author

Darger, Henry (1892-1973), USA

Biography

Henry Darger was born in Chicago, USA. In 1896 his mother died. The boy lived alone with his father for a year. He was then placed in a home, followed by an institution for the mentally handicapped in Lincoln, from which he ran away at the age of 17 on learning of his father’s death. He went back to live in Chicago, where he rented a room and was taken on as a dish-washer and cleaner in hospitals of the city – a post he occupied until his retirement in 1963.

When he died his landlord, the photographer Nathan Lerner, discovered a 2,000-page autobiography, as well as a typed literary work amounting to more than 15,000 pages entitled In the Realms of the Unreal. It is accompanied by hundreds of huge watercolour drawings. His compositions feature heroines with male genitals, the seven ‘Vivian Girls’. They borrow from colouring albums, comic strips and children’s literature from the early 20th century. This colossal work occupied Henry Darger for more than 60 years. It is based on the collage technique, on tracing and on watercolours.

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