Prior to watching The Realms of the Unreal, Henry Darger was an artist I was loosely familiar with from Art History classes of yore, where he was deemed a prominent Outsider Artist. As we barreled through the syllabus, I believe my teachers omitted one of the more interesting tidbits about the artist, his life’s work. In a small dusty studio apartment in Chicago, Henry quietly created a 15,145 page manuscript called 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 (In the Realm of the Unreal for short) which he filled with hundreds of intricate watercolor paintings and illustrations.
An overlooked janitor by day, Henry spent his in-between-times working on his manuscript and teaching himself how to draw; collecting images from magazines and newspapers and pasting them into old yellow pages for inspiration. Oftentimes he would trace figures from these pictures and collage them into elaborate scenes on large sheets(sometimes reaching 12 feet long!) of butcher paper. In the Realm of the Unreal, the artist’s characters appear to look out intently from the canvas, engaging with Henry and giving him the attention he rarely received from his waking life.
In many cases, history seems to downplay the work of Henry Darger; labeling him “crazy” and considering his manuscript to be the delusional musings of an undiagnosed schizophrenic. But this documentary portrays the artist in a different light; as a sweet misunderstood man who was turned off by society’s ugliness and much preferred to retreat into an idyllic world of his own design.
Great resource for Henry’s works and inspirations here.
More information on Outsider Art here.♥