Talk:Henry Darger

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Former good article nominee Henry Darger was a Language and literature good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
May 5, 2007 Good article nominee Not listed

Sources for circumstantial claims?[edit]

The recent anonymous additions by User: mostly fit in with what I know about Darger, although some of this is news to me. I'd sure appreciate citation of sources: this is getting pretty circumstantial on claims that may be difficult to substantiate (e.g. the stated reason he abstained from sex with women). -- Jmabel | Talk 06:32, Dec 27, 2004 (UTC)

I added a couple of online citations... I recognize all of the anonymous user's claims as coming from the one John MacGregor monograph listed in the "further reading" section, so I'll see if I can get the actual page numbers on those any time soon. Until then, I just linked to an online review of the book which repeats the claims.

And the above comment was me. Philthecow 18:45, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Where was Henry's work displayed in 1998?[edit]

this is a random question, , but it's driving me crazy- ok, so everywhere i look, it says that since 2000, there's a big exhibit on his work in the american folk art museum or something like that... but I can't find a whisper of where it may have been displayed *before* that..which seems like a pointless thing to be wondering about, and it is, but I saw his work in a museum somewhere, and I can't remember where it was, and it's driving me nuts. I am fairly sure it was when I was in chicago, which was the summer of 1998, but if that wasn't it, it would have been no later than 1998. Any ideas? - novium

He was at the Chicago Public Library in April and May of 1998--that's the best guess I have. Philthecow 20:19, August 3, 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, I remember going to a Darger show in Chicago around that time. It wasn't a museum, though, it was a gallery. Can't remember which one, though, sorry. Somewhere I still have the flyer, though--if I find it, I'll post. --Chowbok 02:46, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

Actually, the Darger show was at the Chicago Cultural Center in 1998. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:09, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

Says here that the first public showing of Henry's art was in the fall of 1977, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. Secret Battles, review of Michael Bonesteel's book on Henry Took me some time, but I tracked it down. The exhibition everybody remembers was in 1996, "The Unreality of Being" at the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Hope this helps. --Bluejay Young (talk) 03:31, 18 March 2010 (UTC)


In the section Darger in Popular Culture: is there a real reason to mention Gaiman's Sandman, or is this just trivia? Darger is not mentioned in the Sandman article. The rest of the list is works inspired by or seriously influenced by Darger. If no one can explain a reason this is not trivia (or at least give some specifics, like what issues, whether the drawings were actually influenced by Darger or his name is just alluded to, etc.), I'm inclined to remove it. -- Jmabel | Talk 03:36, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

  • It's just trivia, really. I had mentioned it at first because Gaiman fans always tell me excitedly that there's a character who's an homage to Darger. But you're right, it doesn't fit in with the section as is. Feel free to delete it, but if I can dig up more specifics to make it not-so-trivial more specifics there will be. Philthecow
I'd like to know which one. I've read nearly all the Sandman books and I still have no idea who this Darger-like guy is supposed to be. The one thing I did notice was the use (in the story where Dr. Dee goes to a coffee shop and drives everyone insane) of a photograph that originally ran in Life magazine. Known as the "Despondent Divorcee" or the "Genesee Hotel Suicide", her real name was Mary Miller. Urban legend has it that this was snapped from across the street by somebody who was just trying to get a shot of the hotel's front and coffee shop. It was actually one of a series of photos taken by a newspaper photographer who had followed police cars to the scene and he later wrote something explaining how he did it. I have always been impressed by Gaiman's use of that photograph (which you can see here --Bluejay Young 22:10, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
The user of a photograph from Life is far more likely a coincidence than on purpose, unless a direct quote by Gaiman can be provided. Until such evidence is available it would best be removed.

WinkJunior (talk) 20:26, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

  • The book in question is The Sandman - Endless Nights (ISBN 1-84023-784-8). In a story called Going Inside, an unamed janitor describes his project to 'chronicle the Sky-Boys and their journey through Hells Infinite six thousand pages to date'. There are lots of other similarities as well, including some illustrations that resemble Darger's. 17:33, 10 November 2006 (UTC)Erin F.

American Folk Art Museum[edit]

Here's my question: the American Folk Art Museum is said to have a large collection of his work, however, after making the trip, I was thoroughly disappointed to find only one watercolor piece, one map, and one study of his. Why are they not displaying the rest? Or, Where is it? The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) 21 Nov 2005.

Most art museums have collections vastly exceeding what they have space to display. This is especially the case for an artist like Darger, much of whose work was in the form of books, most of whose work (I believe) used both sides of each sheet of paper, and most of whos work is certainly sitting in an unmounted, unframed state. Probably, if the museum is typical, these pieces are available only to those who contact the museum in advance to arrange to see them, and such access may even be restricted to people with some evidence that they are serious scholars (although some museums are much easier on this count: I've sometimes been able to ask around at a museum and get to see some piece I was interested in without having made an advance arrangement). If you want to know more, you'll probably have to ask them. -- Jmabel | Talk 17:40, 21 November 2005 (UTC)

Little Annie Rooney[edit]

Bonesteel (pp. 30-31) documents the influence of the Little Annie Rooney character (in comic strips and film) on Henry Darger. I suspect that this article's reference to Little Orphan Annie was intended to be to Little Annie Rooney. Dgorsline 00:27, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm sure you are correct, and will edit accordingly. - Jmabel | Talk 21:18, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
Looks like it's already been done. - Jmabel | Talk 21:20, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

Large Henry Darger display in Pittsburgh[edit]

There is a full one floor display of Henry Darger's work in the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. I don't know if it's a permanent fixture, but it's there right now 3/30/06. Personally, I find his work very disturbing, particularly the several works in which he depicts an adolescent girl being strangled and with her face bloated and her toungue sticking out. Coincidence? I doubt it. —This unsigned comment was added by Duwahdity (talkcontribs) 31 March 2006.

coincidence of what? Joeyramoney 21:09, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
Presumably he is referring to the speculation that Darger killed a little girl. --Richardrj 09:47, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
Nonsense. Darger says himself in his memoirs that the strangling incidents are based on abuse suffered by inmates of the Lincoln Institution for the Feeble-Minded. A lot of his portrayals of child exploitation and suffering are based on what he went through and witnessed there. Don't forget that he also served in a hospital, and abused children are frequently brought in by their parents with some bulls--t story like "Oh, she fell down the stairs". A lot of people are still in denial about child abuse and the frequency and extremity to which it occurs. Also, there is a tendency in this culture to assume that because an author portrays something as happening, that means he approves of or sanctions it, particularly if he is a peculiar person like ol'Henry (rather than a best-selling author like Stephen King). Okay, I'm done ranting for now. --Bluejay Young 22:06, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Holdings of Darger's work[edit]

There are also holdings of Darger's work at the Musee d'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. Or at least there were when I was there. I would really like to know where the MS of Vivian Girls is held, though. --Richardrj 09:55, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

Tornado and Countrybrown[edit]

This sentence bother me: "In 1913 he witnessed the complete destruction of the town of Countrybrown, Illinois by a huge tornado." I can find no online citations of a place called "Countrybrown, Illinois" except in reference to Darger. And I can find no references to particularly damaging tornados in Illinois that year. Is this true or fictional? Rmhermen 15:02, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

I got that from a review of the Darger exhibition in The Nation in something like 1999. I'm not sure where they got it. There are some very small towns in Illinois and Countrybrown may have been one of these little wide spots in the road. Should this be taken out until I can get to a 1913 almanac? --Bluejay Young 22:01, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
I have found a reference to a huge storm system which may have occasioned the tornado Henry speaks of, and which caused the Omaha Easter Sunday Tornado (1913). MacGregor says that Henry dates the tornado as occurring Easter Sunday 1913. I'm sure this is it; that thing did a hell of a lot of damage across the midwest, including in Terre Haute, Indiana, which is right on the Indiana-Illinois border. Many extremely small towns exist in that area -- population 30 or less. Now the next question is what was Darger doing near Terre Haute at that time? (looking for work? visiting relatives?) There is so much we do not know without reading MacGregor's book, and if it's not in there we will have to write to him and ask him. --Bluejay Young 13:03, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
I checked the dates and am now starting to wonder who is confused; MacGregor or myself. If Henry was born in 1892, he would have been heading home from the feeble-minded place in 1909, which is when The New Republic article said his autobiography said he witnessed the tornado. (Never mind the Countrybrown part; I took that out until we can find out where that was. Darger may also have misremembered the name of the town.) If it was the Omaha Easter Sunday storm system, that would have been four years later. I am still tracking this down and will do so if I have to write to MacGregor. --Bluejay Young 22:10, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
It's not Countrybrown. It's Chesterbrown, according to p. 434 in MacGregor's book, and Darger apparently made up this name for his book. It's supposed to be near LaSalle. Darger usually lets you know in these documents when he is writing fiction, and he says the "Sweetie Pie" tornado was fiction, but it's clearly based on his own eyewitness account. MacGregor thinks the "Sweetie Pie" tornado was based partly on the Easter Cyclone of April 12, 1903 (Henry's birthday, and a few days before he entered the feeble-minded place), partly on the Omaha Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913, but mostly on the Tri-State Tornado of 1925. --Bluejay Young (talk) 10:11, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Elsie Paroubek[edit]

I think the famous photo of Elsie should be part of this article. There is, I think, a copy in Bonesteel's book, which I have, and I also screencapped it off of the film on Darger's life last night. Would I contact Kiyoko for permission to use it, I presume it belongs to the rest of the Darger collection even though it's not his original copy? Or do I have to call the Sun-Times? --Bluejay Young 23:13, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

If the photograph was published in the United States prior to 1923 (presumably so, since the girl was murdered in 1911) then it's in the public domain now. -Stellmach 00:44, 21 October 2006 (UTC)
Well, it's up now. Merry Christmas, Henry. --Bluejay Young 03:31, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

The New York Times printed an article [1] about the reward offered for the capture of Elsie's killer which lists her age as ten, not five as mentioned in this Wikipedia article. Sources for her age being five? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:18, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Michael Bonesteel and John MacGregor, Henry's biographers, used the Chicago Daily News as a source and it said five. There is a ton of period Elsie coverage here for a slight fee. --Bluejay Young (talk) 06:02, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

Paula Rego[edit]

I cut "Much of Portugese artist Paula Rego's early work is inspired by the Vivian Girls." Darger may have been an influence on Rego (in which case, please cite for this) but her "early work" was long before Darger's work was publicly known. - Jmabel | Talk 04:02, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Darger's exhibition history[edit]

taken from there was also an exhibition in Paris this summer and one in Seatle comming up Darger has been in several major Group exhibitions like Paralell Visions which showed Outsider and Contemporary art together, as well as having been in shows by major contemporary art galleries like the Mathew Marks Gallery, Andres Rosen Gallery


  • Henry Darger
    • The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, February 5, - April 30 2006
  • VISIONS REALIZED: The Paintings and Process of Henry Darger
    • Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago March 14 - June 1, 2003.
  • Henry Darger: In the Realm of the Unreal
    • Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art, November 29, 2002, - April 6, 2003, Tokyo
  • Darger: the Henry Darger Collection
    • The American Folk Art Museum December 11, 2001, - June 23, 2002.
  • Studies and Sketches: Henry Darger,
    • Eva and Morris Feld Gallery, January 21, 2002, - July 14, 2002,
  • Disasters of War
    • Presented by P.S.1. [That's in Long Island City, NY], November 19, 2000, - February 25, 2001.
  • Self-Taught Artists of the 20th Century: An American Anthology
    • Philadelphia Museum of Art, March 10-May 17, 1998
    • High Museum of Art, Atlanta, July 14-October 20, 1998
    • Amon Carter Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, October 31, 1998-January 24, 1999
    • Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, February 20-April 18, 1999
    • Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, May 15-August 15, 1999
    • Museum of American Folk Art, New York, September 19-December 11, 1999
  • Henry Darger: The Unreality of Being,
    • The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Ames, January 13, 1996 - March 10, 1996
    • Museum of American Folk Art, New York City, January 18, 1997 - April 27, 1997
    • Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, September 20 - November 30, 1997
    • The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, December 13, 1997 - March 7, 1998
  • (unnamed exhibit?)
    • Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, Chicago, April 4 - May 31, 1998
  • The Unreality of Being
    • University of Iowa Museum of Art, 1996.
  • The Realms of the Unreal
    • Hyde Park Art Centre, Chicago - 1977

—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 4 September 2006.

Formatted by Jmabel | Talk 23:48, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

The Seattle exhibit you alluded to is already under way:

  • Henry Darger: Highlights from the American Folk Art Museum
    • Frye Art Museum, Seattle, August 19 – October 29, 2006

- Jmabel | Talk 23:49, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Cleanup tag[edit]

The article as it currently stands is full of redundancies, is not well sourced (or the sources are not tied to the information in a way that is readily apparent to a reader), and is somewhat contradictory, so I've added a cleanup tag for now. There is however a good article buried here that I would like to try and unearth.--Isotope23 19:53, 7 November 2006 (UTC)


Someone asked if Crazy House could be called a sequel in the true sense of the word. Although Darger's full title for the book was Further Adventures in Chicago: Crazy House, I'm not sure he made it clear whether this was supposed to have taken place subsequent to the Glandelinian-Abiennian war or before or during it. I've read that he changed the timing a couple of times in the book. If subsequent, one could call it a sequel in that it involves the Vivians. My guess is that he wanted to write a series of Vivian Girl books, like the Hardy Boys. If so, that's less of a sequel than "the next book in the series". ??? --Bluejay Young 16:10, 22 February 2007 (UTC)


I've nominated this for GA, hopefully as a first step towards getting this in line for a FA.--Isotope23 13:46, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Failed GA[edit]

For the primary reason of lack of inline citations, which I always find speed any article to GA. Citing the paragraphs and certain sentences as necessary with line citations will be a great help to this article. I recommend a normal peer review as well. The automatic peer review suggests:

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Realms of the Unreal/ Vivian Girls[edit]

The title of the book starts out The Story of the Vivian Girls in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal. However, ever since the 1996 "Unreality of Being" exhibitions and MacGregor's writings, people discussing Henry's work have called it In The Realms of the Unreal. I've always seen the "Realms of the Unreal" part as a subtitle. Is there any evidence that Darger himself called it by that name (like if he wrote about it in his diary, like "I worked on a new illustration for Realms of the Unreal today") or did he call it The Story of the Vivian Girls? The article should refer to the book by the name Darger used. --Bluejay Young 01:52, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Darger's bound volumes are clearly marked "Volume ___ of The Realms of the Unreal". Case closed. --Bluejay Young (talk) 06:03, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

Why so little reliable information about Darger[edit]

I first learned about Darger from the Yu film documentary which I thought was well researched and a beautiful representation of his art. But besides for this I have been unable to find any other usefull infomation about what seems to be a very interesting if somewhat controversial biographical information about Henry Darger. It appears that upon his death his work was horded by greedy landlords who already had a foot in the art world, which raises questions in its self and seems a little too coincedental. Art dealers just happened to be his landlords, yeah ok. How come none of his works have been slightly edited and published as fiction. How come there are no biographical sources on him besides for a book by John McGregor. McGregor apparently spent 12 years researching Darger, even going as far as to live in his old apartment. But alas, unless I want to fork over upwards of $300 for a 720 biography of Darger than I guess I am shit out of luck. Hopefully Yu's film will require for the reprinting of McGregors book, but until then could you help me out. Where can I find more info about this guy? Sadly I would guess that 2 art collecters have become rich off Darger while for the rest of us he lives only in the realms of our imagination — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:25, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

That's been the problem facing this article as well. I'd love to see this get to featured article status, but I keep running into the fact that there isn't really a whole lot of good verifiable info out there that is easily available, nor is it easy to come by a picture that is usable (though I suspect the one or two known images of him would fall under fair use). There are a couple of websites out there that basically regurgitate sections from McGregor's book. There is a certain irony in the fact that a guy who labored in anonymous solitude most of his life on a project he loved dearly died destitute and is now making several other people rather wealthy... I once inquired into buying some of his artwork; the price I was quoted for the piece I wanted was more than cost of the house I was living in at that time.--Isotope23 16:40, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I was once told that the reason Vivian Girls would never be published in its entirety in America had to do with its themes of extreme violence against children. I thought that was bogus at the time and still do, considering the fact that bilge like The End of Alice is regarded by the literary intelligencia as a work of staggering genius. Vivian Girls was printed in its entirety in Switzerland in 1998, but apparently we Americans can't be trusted with its contents. As for Lerner being an art appreciator, that may have been a piece of astute choice on the part of fellow art appreciator Darger. We don't know how he ended up in those digs after having lived in ten or twelve other places in the area. Darger was by his own admission a person of sharp wit and observation, and to see him as a naif is a big mistake. --Bluejay Young 21:44, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

The reason it will not likely be published is that it is over 15,000 pages long and very redundant.People were impressed with the volume of the work rather than the quality. I don't think that it would be out of the question for it to someday be published in some form, with the help of a very good editor.Mk5384 (talk) 03:55, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
This writer pretty much agrees with you. I won't give up hope for a "raw" version, however. Instead of one big book, it should be published in a series of volumes, the way Henry wrote it. --Bluejay Young (talk) 21:10, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Lost Girls[edit]

An anon added that "Lost Girls", by Tilly and the Wall is a reference to Darger's work as well. I'm not so sure about that. There is a line about "19,000" pages and a "world so unreal", but really it is a bit vague... Anyone have a ref where the band stated that Darger and the Vivian girls were in any way an inspiration for their song?--Isotope23 19:27, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

I just looked up the song and the lyric is "Vivian, your life is told through 19 thousand pages/In a world too unreal to behold" so it seems like a big coincidence if it's not about the Vivian Girls. The rest of the lyrics give the impression that the girl being addressed is either a rolled-up painting or a dead person rolled up in a carpet in an unfurnished room (implying that Darger killed someone). I don't see any interviews where they confirm this, though, just a lot of websites saying the same thing it says in this article.Gorramdoll (talk) 14:09, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

One of Darger's illustrations shows the Vivians rolled up in carpets in an unfurnished room. They were smuggled in to spy on the enemies. I always thought Darger got this idea from the 1934 Cleopatra film with Claudette Colbert. A lot of his images are straight out of Cecil B. DeMille tableaux. However, Michael Bonesteel identifies it as coming from a film version of Little Annie Rooney with Mary Pickford. Given that Darger was a fan of Little Annie, it seems more likely. --Bluejay Young (talk) 14:07, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

Purple Crimson And Lavender[edit]

The lyrics recently added do establish that this band was referring to Darger's work, but those lyrics can't be printed here as they would fall under copyright. Another source needs to be found; perhaps a reference link to an official band website that reprints lyrics? Do the lyrics appear printed in the CD liner notes? That could be used as a reference...--Isotope23 talk 14:33, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

How would one go about...[edit]

How would one go about finding a copy of "The Story of the Vivian Girls..." to read? I'm sure some copies must exist somewhere, besides Darger's originals, but how would one obtain a copy? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:01, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

It'll help if you're in Switzerland. The book has been published in its entirety only there. Highly unlikely it'll ever be published in the States, although a book of excerpts is planned. --Bluejay Young 08:52, 4 October 2007 (UTC)
You don't happen to have a link or something do you? I'd be curious about importing it. --Wolfrider (talk) 03:20, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
I would contact the Museum of Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. If you want to read The History of My Life, though, it is in Henry Darger by Klaus Biesenbach which has gorgeous reproductions of his best illustrations.
Was it published with just the text or with the illustrations too? I read that Darger's self-bound volumes were cut up after his death to sell its components separately, and that now nobody knows which illustrations go where. Esn (talk) 01:00, 17 May 2008 (UTC)
Probably just the text. I think there has been some effort to number the pieces so at least they can tell the order in which they were done. --Bluejay Young (talk) 21:25, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
If you want to look at Henry's best illustrations combined with the text, get a copy of Michael Bonesteel's Henry Darger: Art & Selected Writings. --Bluejay Young (talk) 21:59, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
There is also the fact that the original text is very fragile. I found a quote by Mac in the book Beautiful Fighting Girls by Saito Tamaki where it is written: "It consists of seven hand-bound volumes of tightly packed thin typewritten pages [oh god tell me he didn't type it on onionskin] and eight bundles of handwritten pages. It is so massive and so poorly preserved that not even MacGregor has read it in its entirety for fear that the handwritten pages might disintegrate in the process of unbundling them. He points out that the only way to publish them would be to carefully scan the text and put it onto a CD-ROM." So apparently the earlier information that the book was published in its entirety in Switzerland was incorrect. I am sure that someone at the Swiss museum where the MS is preserved will arrange for it to be scanned if there is enough demand for it. --Bluejay Young (talk) 04:06, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

Darger's Mental State[edit]

I am having some difficulty understanding the phrases: 1. "(MacGregor later defended his psychoanalytic view of Darger, but denied that he accused him of murder.)" AND 2. "Bonesteel views MacGregor's references to Darger having a "pathology" as part of an attempt to classify Darger's work as Art Brut or outsider art, noting that this too is controversial."

1. I have been known to be dense but maybe this can use some clarification. Does this mean he still believed Darger had subconscious desires to harm children but that he didn't really think he actually committed murder? or that he believed he could have been the murderer but he does not formally accuse him?

2. This is a bit confusing and perhaps could be broken down a bit for those of us who aren't familiar with Darger at all. This "Bonesteel" came out of nowhere as far as I can tell (again, I came here having just heard of Darger and know nothing but what I have read here). But mostly I just don't understand this sentence at all. Do you mean MacGregor may have something more personal against Darger or that the whole talk about Darger wanting to harm children was far too speculative? (I apologize in advance if I mess something up here, this is my first time editing in wikipedia.) --Spastikman 04:02, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

No problem. That was my edit, so I'll try to explain it. MacGregor is Darger's principal biographer and is considered by many reviewers (me included) to have an agenda. MacGregor's specialty is the "art of the insane" and he clearly wants to include Darger's work in this category. In promoting this view, he used the word "pathology" repeatedly, and made a lot of speculative statements, some of which may have been taken out of context (the most notable being "Darger had the mind of a serial killer" -- which MacGregor now denies he said or meant). People attending MacGregor's lectures on Darger came away with the clear impression that MacGregor thought Darger had killed Elsie. MacGregor denies that he meant any such thing. This is what I mean about the controversy.
Bonesteel is Michael Bonesteel (he should be cited in the references and if he isn't I will), a more sympathetic art critic who sees Darger as a talented amateur but not an "outsider artist", let alone an "Art Brut" or psychotic who happened to commit art. His book is Henry Darger, Art and Selected Writings. In many ways it is much more satisfying than MacGregor's because he presents and interprets Darger's work on its and Henry's own terms rather than resorting to shopworn psychiatric hypotheses. He wants us to see Darger as different, but not insane. He puts the art back in the context of the text, from which it had been separated by Darger's landlord when he wanted to put the pictures on show. Most of the book is selections from the text, letting Darger speak for himself. This helps the viewer to understand why Darger painted the way he did. One of the things Bonesteel talks about as having distorted the public's view of Darger's life and work is MacGregor's repeated use of the word "pathology". I hope this helps. --Bluejay Young (talk) 20:25, 15 December 2007 (UTC)
A bit more about Bonesteel. His writings on Henry were used by Mac as a source. It was Bonesteel who tracked down Elsie as being Henry's "lost picture" girl. Henry never refers to Elsie Paroubek in any of his writings, fact or fiction (although in the novel, he's got a "Paroubek Bridge" and a few other Paroubek or Parobek place names). He calls her Annie Aronburg, and cites the picture of "Annie" as having been lost in July 1912 and having come from the Chicago Daily Noise (apparently Olbermann isn't the only one to refer to a sensationalized, tabloidish yellow-journalism source as "Noise") but hasn't got an exact date, only saying "May, June, or July, 1911." The actual date was May 9, 1911. This is why he couldn't get another copy... he actually went through the newspaper archives, but kept thinking it was in June. Then he made up the storyline about Annie having been a child rebel leader who was murdered. This is all on pp. 494-496 of Mac's book.
Bonesteel believed there was a real Annie, and went looking for murdered children in the Chicago Daily News archives for spring 1911 and found their lengthy accounts of the whole Elsie case. There is virtually no doubt that Darger's Annie is Elsie. --Bluejay Young (talk) 10:45, 24 February 2009 (UTC)


We have a problem with this section. The article cited (citation #8) explicitly refutes the statement made in this paragraph, that MacGregor claims that "--Darger murdered Elsie..." The article actually tackles this controversy in depth, and MacGregor himself goes on record as never having made the above statement. I'm deleting this section-- please rewrite with appropriate citations. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:36, 2 May 2008 (UTC)

It seems bizarre that this "section" consists of one unreferenced line, and yet here on the discussion page are many paragraphs about the so-called "section." Why don't we just delete the section until someone is ready to write a proper section on the subject? Matt Thorn (talk) 12:10, 28 July 2008 (UTC)
I could go through MacGregor's book (which I now have) and cite the number of times he implied that Henry killed Elsie. MacGregor seems determined to compare Henry to known serial killers; on p. 602 he includes a diagram by Jeffrey Dahmer depicting a shrine memorializing his victims, and compares this to the Glandelinians' blasphemous altars in Henry's depiction of the massacre At Norma Catherine via Jennie Richee. MacGregor often seems to be overinterpreting in an effort to explain Henry's life and work to himself. There are several reviews of Mac's book which make the same observation about this overreaching, and they could be quoted. -Bluejay Young (talk) 02:37, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
There is a discussion of Darger in terms of the "outsider art" craze here, ending with a few paragraphs about Mac and his "psychologically, Darger was a serial killer" misquote (at least Mac now claims he never said this). (He did say in his book "Whether or not they were acted upon, these are the ongoing fantasies of a serial killer.") Mac's own state of mind can be discerned from this sort of thing and from his Freudian slips, such as; "We can learn from someone like Henry Darger about what happens to a genius when his family and environment are emotionally depraved." Er... Mac, I think you mean deprived. --Bluejay Young (talk) 09:13, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

Dead Link[edit]

I deleted "Realm of the Unreal, a page devoted to Henry Darger, including artwork, links, a bibliography, and information on current exhibits." because the page no longer exists, and a search did not turn up a new URL for it. Matt Thorn (talk) 12:04, 28 July 2008 (UTC)

The novel itself[edit]

All the time people pay attention to Darger's art work, but are there any plans to publish the manuscript which the collages illustrate? Or is The Vivian Girls just too poorly-written and slowly-paced to be readable and is the art work the only thing that matters in Darger's oeuvre? Steinbach (talk) 23:53, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

There is a documentary movie called In The Realms of the Unreal available via [Netflix]: [2] but that is all I have found, there is no mention of any publication of his work in the film, sadly. WinkJunior (talk) 20:10, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

I'm curious myself, I'm only aware of excerpts being published. I got the impression from the documentary that his works had been broken up, so it may not even be possible to publish them altogether? Шизомби (talk) 16:12, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

Removal or rewriting of concept of story/mental state[edit]

I think the entry "Much modern fascination with Darger concerns his portrayal of horrific brutality displayed against children." should be modified or removed. As the documentary film from 2004 shows, while children were often threatened, or even killed, I would hardly call it "horrific brutality", not "horrific" nor "brutal". Many stories involving children involve them being threatened and/or killed dating back to at least "Fairy Tale" times.

Having studied Children's Lit I can assure you there are many dozens of stories, such as "Hanzel & Gretel" in which children are threatened, or in one of the origin versions, killed and eaten (cannibalism.) I wrote a paper on this showing how the trend towards a less violent ("horrific" and/or "brutal") tone towards children in literature has moved away from that to the modern day where it is far less violent, etc. But even in Sendak's classic "Where The Wild Things Are" the main child character is threatened by huge beasts.

As such, I do not think Darger's works deserve such an abrasive and excessive description, and in particular has little or nothing to do with his "mental state" as he wrote repeatedly that his work and concerns were with protecting children from the abuses of adults. WinkJunior (talk) 20:07, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

I haven't read the novel, nor even seen the documentary, but I guess that and the excerpt in seems to justify what's written in the article. Tizio 14:33, 27 November 2008 (UTC)
What the Glandelinians are doing to those kids is horrific and brutal. This generates controversy as to what was Darger's mental state at the time because modern people can't understand how anyone could create such images. It's in tons of magazine and online articles about H.D., and I think it should stay. People don't do art like that any more, the way they did in the Middle Ages Massacre of the Innocents and so forth). [ETA 9-1-12 and what about this The Triumph of Death, which even looks a bit like some of Henry's work -- do people question Bruegel's mental state when he painted that?] I think people are made uncomfortable by it because they don't want to accept or admit that people do things like that to kids every day. See my comments on what Darger reported witnessing personally at the feeble-minded place, and what I think he may have seen at the hospital. It's easier to call Darger "creepy" or say he has a "pathology", to say he was creating images of something he wanted to do, than to admit he was doing a novelized, filmic version of something he had witnessed and to some extent experienced. (More to the point, this article pretty much sums up my feelings about Darger). --Bluejay Young (talk) 07:19, 2 February 2009 (UTC)
According to Jim Elledge's biography, Darger experienced physical and sexual abuse throughout his childhood, and this had a huge influence on his work and his obsession with protecting children. Kaldari (talk) 21:24, 29 December 2013 (UTC)


I have read that Mr. Darger was not born in the U.S.Is there verification of his birth in Chicago?Mk5384 (talk) 03:59, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

They do not actually have his birth certificate as I thought. When he registered for the Army he wrote that he was born in Chicago April 12, 1879... he would say he was actually born in Brazil and apparently spoke some Portuguese, but this is not in keeping with the official records. --Bluejay Young (talk) 02:46, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

Elsie's Story[edit]

I have accessed a number of Chicago Tribune articles about the disappearance and death of Elsie Paroubek. I'm beginning to wonder if it would be appropriate to create an article just about her or if it would be seen as a "fork".

She is not just notable because Darger memorialized her but because her disappearance led to one of the most massive searches in Chicago history. It was like the Lindbergh kidnapping decades later, although the Paroubeks were ordinary working class people. There was a certain amount of Missing white woman syndrome around Elsie, a blue-eyed blonde. One LA Times headline read "FATHER AND A POLICEMAN ON THE TRAIL OF NOMADS; Wandering Horse Traders and Fortune Tellers Believed to Have Taken Child Merely Because They Like Blue Eyes and the Yellow Flaxen Hair."

What's interesting about her connection to Darger is that children throughout the city were released from school to help in the search. It was thought that she had been abducted by gypsies (everything was blamed on gypsies back then). One little girl, Lillian Wulff, supposedly kidnapped by gypsies four years previously, volunteered a number of "insider" details about gypsy behavior and proposed a plan to enlist farmers to track Elsie down. Asked if she would be willing to lead a rescue party, Lillian said she would be happy to.

There was no picture of Elsie in the Trib. --Bluejay Young (talk) 06:20, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, if if was one of the most massive searches in Chicago history, anything like Lindbergh dealy, and you have refs, it'd be worthwhile to rescue it from the dustbin of history, in my view. Herostratus (talk) 15:08, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
OK, good. I just didn't want to "fork". --Bluejay Young (talk) 19:14, 20 July 2011 (UTC)

No images of his art?[edit]

What's the one thing that an article on an artist should contain? Surely, it's pictures of their art. This article is seriously flawed by the fact it doesn't contain any illustrations of Darger's work (although it can be viewed in many of the sources and external links). Is there a reason for this - is it still copyrighted or something? Even if so, surely we could include a small excerpt or two as a representative sample of his work? Robofish (talk) 13:23, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Of course it's still in copyright - he died in 1973 so only 30 years to go. Some fair use examples would be allowable. Johnbod (talk) 14:18, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Kiyoko Lerner still owns all that stuff, doesn't she? What works does she consider okay to use? --Bluejay Young (talk) 05:08, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

New biography[edit]

Jim Elledge's new biography of Darger, which is meticulously researched, offers a somewhat different perspective on Darger's life than previous authors. I've added a couple sentences to the article reflecting some of Elledge's insights, but they are only scratching the surface. Much of the current "Life" section really needs to be rewritten in light of Elledge's biography. Kaldari (talk) 21:32, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

Yes, and also I want to add Michael Moon's new book Darger's Resources. It contextualizes a great deal. Psychologists who do not understand the popular culture of the era have misread things into Darger's work that have led them to diagnose him with various pathologies, when the answer has been right there the whole time. --Bluejay Young (talk) 05:05, 5 January 2014 (UTC)

Michael Bonesteel: Contemporary Perceptions of Darger, 2013[edit]

Here is a lecture by Michael Bonesteel from last year about Henry that I wonder if it could be used as a reference. Is this considered a reliable source, or does it have to be printed somewhere? --Bluejay Young (talk) 05:08, 5 January 2014 (UTC)


'fitting diagnosis'[edit]

Why does Darger have to have a 'fitting diagnosis' of anything let alone autism? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:7:8500:982:9DC5:DEA6:1F9E:3B49 (talk) 18:01, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

That's what I (and several Darger biographers) would like to know. I'm strongly considering removing that. --Bluejay Young (talk) 20:06, 26 July 2015 (UTC)

What does this mean?[edit]

>By Darger's own report his father, Henry Sr., was kind and reassuring to him and they lived together until 1900. In that year the crippled and impoverished Darger Sr. was taken to St. Augustine's Catholic Mission home and his son placed in a Catholic boys' home. Darger Sr. died in 1905, and his son was institutionalized in the Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children in Lincoln, Illinois....

The way this reads is that Darger Sr died in 1905, resulting in Darger Jr to be sent to Lincoln. Was that what happened or is it just that these two things occurred in 1905? Rissa, copy editor (talk) 05:09, 25 January 2015 (UTC)

No, that's wrong. Darger Sr. was still around for several years after Henry was sent to Lincoln at age 12. He died when Henry was about 16 or 17. --Bluejay Young (talk) 20:03, 26 July 2015 (UTC)

Lincoln Developmental Center[edit]

I found a link to the Lincoln State School which has two illustrations. I'd like to add this to "Related URLs" or whatever that's called. Does anybody object? Rissa, copy editor (talk) 05:14, 25 January 2015 (UTC)

In general, links to other wikis are avoided, since they are WP:UGC. The article already has a very large WP:EL section, so I think discretion is called for. If the illustrations are appropriately licensed, could they be uploaded to Commons? The section on his life would benefit from some images. Grayfell (talk) 07:17, 25 January 2015 (UTC)
The more I read about that, the more I think the Lincoln State School should have its own Wikipedia article. Grayfell (talk) 07:36, 25 January 2015 (UTC)
I second that. --Bluejay Young (talk) 19:57, 26 July 2015 (UTC)