Henry Darger’s visionary ambitions belie the humble circumstances of his reclusive life, spent primarily in a rented room. Around 1909, he began writing an apocalyptic epic, 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. More than a decade later, Darger completed nineteen thousand pages, organized in twelve volumes. Subsequently, he executed approximately two hundred and fifty large, horizontal drawings to illustrate events and characters in his complex narrative. His elaborate, radiant drawings appear to have occupied him until the late 1960s. Only after Darger’s death was his obsessive project discovered by his landlord, photographer Nathan Lerner.
Modeled after children’s adventure stories and military accounts, The Story of the Vivian Girls … chronicles the conflict between two imaginary nations on anunidentified planet. The heroines are the Vivian girls, seven princesses, whose eventual victory symbolized the triumph of good over evil to the devoutly Catholic Darger.
An uncomfortable draftsman, Darger traced his figures from children’s books, newspapers, and magazines scavenged from the streets of Chicago.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)