100 thoughts on “The Secret Life and Art of Henry Darger”

  1. If no one hears the tree fall, it's totally still art. The more I learn about contemporary art, I think that the entire goal of the 70's was to make the question "is it art" obsolete. This kind of making imaginative drawing fits pretty comfortably into any definition of art anyway.

  2. Art doesn't need an audience. Curators and creators can share and make art, and people can enhance and change the experience of art. But at its core, art just is.

  3. I think he was embarrassed of his art due to the fact that people might think he's crazy for drawing naked and murdered children.

    Also was this book ever published and were his art pieces included?

  4. Thanks to this, I was inspired to seek out and rewatch In the Realms of the Unreal (2004) by Jessica Wu. If anyone has ANY interest in this story, I urge you to likewise seek it out.
    This man, with his internal passions, spent his entire life completely dedicated to the task of telling this story. The thing that strikes me about this, the thing that, to me, makes this narrative so relevant to the modern world, is this question: For every content creator with thousands of subscribers and tens of thousands of views in total, how many orders of magnitude more are there out there, whether on YouTube, on DeviantArt, FanFiction.net, whatever, who are doing the very same thing as Henry Darger, creating a massive universe of creativity, with no one knowing about it, because there is no mechanism to discover these quiet creators of content? And more personally, as someone dedicated to becoming one of those content creators, is that fate going to be my own? Or will it be worse still, and my creativity not be discovered by some lucky landlord even after my death?

  5. It's funny you should say that one should stop at season 2 of Lost. That's exactly where I stopped since I'd watched the first couple seasons on DVD, but season 3 was halfway over by the time I'd done that, and I never got around to going back to it later. Guess maybe I dodged a bullet on that one :0).

  6. I find this rather intriguing. On one hand, I can see how people would consider this stuff to be of value, however, on the other hand you have to wonder if the guy was a pedophile. I am not talking about someone who molests children, that would be classified as a child molester. I am talking about someone who finds young children sexually attractive. What makes me wonder is the fact that he did all this in secret, did not tell a soul about it and even wanted it trashed when he was dying. The fact that, in a lot of the art, the girls are naked. I understand the story behind it and all, this is why I am not fully convinced he was a pedophile.

    Not much is known about him and and a lot of pedophiles are not the type to be talkative, even more so when you have a life long stash of drawings of naked little girls. Just something to consider. Not trying to be mean or anything, but we should consider all aspects of who this man was since not much was known about him.

    These drawings seem to come from the mind of someone who is not fully all there. Has a few screws loose, not the work of some artistic savant. Children being stabbed, ripped open, knife through the chest. Seems a little extreme. So what if there is a "story" behind the art. Even if he is not a pedophile, the fact that he draws all that death and carnage tells me he is a bit off his rocker.

    Can you imagine what Darger would think if he came back and saw all the images he had drawn of the little girls up on display for everyone to see? I know he is dead, but perhaps there was an underlying reason as to why he wanted to keep it a secret.

  7. I don't see what this has to do with basically anything, but I'm glad you covered it and it's cool that folks are getting a lot out of it.

  8. I know these people have good intentions.
    But.His wish was that his work should be destroyed, he clearly didnt want his life to be presented, showed or sold. It feels wrong to see what they have done to his life.

  9. Yes, I believe it can be considered art even when only the artist sees it. Art is the artistic expression of the artist, regardless of who sees it.
    Why else would we be interested in the paintings of artists who reused canvases that said artists painted over. The artists themselves decided they didn't want to share them with the world for whatever reason, but people still try to see what is under the top layer of paint.

  10. How do you make a judgment whether it's "art"? You don't. You go make your own, and you will have no time to be a critic. 😉

  11. art is an expression of ones self and people can experience expression in many forms. so if this is true then it only takes someone to experience the expression for it to be considered art, even if that is only ones self.

  12. He sounds like he was a wonderful man. It's a bummer life wasn't better to him while he was alive. But it's very cool that he's getting recognition now

  13. Is it art if no-one sees it? Makes me instantly think of Kafka. I'd say yes with the argument that art is life and life is art 🙂

  14. A recent book by Olivia Laing The Lonely City considers Darger. I had never heard of Darger before but she gives him a respectful and even elegant consideration.

  15. Did that woman actually say "the category of outsider art" The micro brew swilling hosts are
    jealous because the Vivian Girls have bigger penises than they have. She should leave her hat
    with her art…outside. Darger was a prophet.

  16. the leader of that institute has a genius for understatement bordering on plain stupidity. If you are going to talk about Dargers childshood at all then be honest. He was horribly abused. He was basically a child slave himself. If you sugar coat it then it makes his art make no sense.

  17. "His work can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars." And yet Darger worked as a janitor and lived in a simple room.
    It's hard not to think that he was picked over by vultures after his death.

  18. Bert Paulson brings up a significant detail that this video completely ignores. And in so doing misrepresents Darger. It's not really honest to leave this detail out.

  19. Who cares what is or isn't art. It's all made up labels that mean nothing. But for the sake of argument, to me anyone creating something just for themselves and not with an audience in mind is about as pure a thing as you can get and what actual "art" is.
    I think he was too scared of the world and people to do much at all and hid away from the world and he just had a creative drive that some people have more than others and put all his past childhood experiences and also his love for books, like the oz series, into his own creation. His life was totally consumed by the abuse he suffered as a child and his obsession with protecting other children from suffering any kind of abuse, so that came out in what he created.

  20. His art was done at a time when art of young slave girls was not exactly acceptable , he probably felt it best to keep it secret. Religion was quite repressive in those days.



  21. Great outsider art.  Art is in the eyes of the beholder.  Even the horror of his battle scenes as disturbing as they are, show great thought and creativity.  Nice video guys!

  22. If you want your creation not to be seen, then you have to destroy it while your'e alive. Otherwise it becomes an excercise in futility. Anyways, in the universe nothing gets destroyed, it can always be retrieved. But that's another story.

  23. How would he have been perceived? Badly, unfortunately. This isn't the type of artwork that would be wildly popular. And that's a shame.

  24. I've read several things in the comments below that are not quite right… but that's this video's fault: Darger did not want his worked destroyed, he was very ill at the very end of his life and was moved to a hospital, the landlords enter his room to make some cleaning and found his arta, they went to see Darger at his bed in the hospital and asked him "what should we do with this? We think is marvelous… can we keep it?" and he thought about it for a moment and then said "if yoi like it then you can do whatever you want with it" short after that he died. Also, the naked androginous girls look like that because Darger himself never saw a naked woman in his life, so he didn's even know about different sets of genitalia. he never had sex with any woman because he had a sister and they were split appart at a very young age, Darger was scared he could end up in bed with her by mistake if he ever tried to have sex, so either way he never really know anything about the subjetc.
    I highly recomment the docummentary "In the realms of unreal", is a ver complete and interesting analysis of Darger's life and work… not like this video.

  25. For all of you please watch Fredrik Knudsen's down the rabbit hole about him, he was a tragic and interesting figure

  26. If art is a mirror to oneself, then this is something worth seeing. Did you see perversion? Did you see mutilation? Did you see innocence? Did you see asexuality? Did you see the power of femininity unfettered by puberty? Did you see…?

    What you see is what you are. It is not your answer you should be concerned with – but rather the reason (in your own head) for your answer that should concern you. And, if like me, you consider all these things – have we become so considerationary that the true message of the art is lost? How we, or I, lost our, or my, way? This outcome is equally disconcerting.

    Making this great art.

  27. I don't think he was like creepy or a pedo. If anything he was lonely and schizophrenic. It may seem weird to us. But he never hurt anyone and even though the subject is odd the paintings are beautiful and creative

  28. Why can Americans never talk a bit more slowly, they hurry thru language as if s/o is behind them. Also this documentary gave you no chance to take a closer look on the art or the room where Darger lived. About the question: Should this art have been made public, I am not sure. It's a hard thing to tell. On the one hand it was personal and it was the express wish of the artist, that it should be destroyed. On the other hand, maybe it's of greater value: to help people with similar background to tell their story, to help people who shy away from calling themselves artists to think it over. And of course ART is ART, no matter if s/o sees it or not or if it sells or not. Art is art is art is art…and it can be healing.

  29. as an artist myself and a person who reveres other ppls boundaries as sacred. the fact that Henry Danger's wishes to have his belongs disposed of were directly disregarded and violated – hurts me deeply. That was his private mind and heartfelt expressions meant to remain unseen.

  30. Art in it's purest form is about creative expression. Concerns for what others will think, and fear of that shame reduce purity of expression, and therefore it's purity as art.

  31. What a fascinating and creative man. I've just recently started looking into Darger's life and art and love the whole idea of the socially rejected recluse secretly creating a new world for himself in art.

  32. depends on how the word "art" is defined: if we only mean "that created by humans" then the scope is limited. If we say "that which is aesthetically pleasing" then everything we see is art.

  33. It will be great if the museum or his work can help fund raising for child slaves.. artist himself have a sad childhood and might be vhild slqve victim

  34. Art is art regardless whether or not others see it. Would it have become popular? Not, unless the buyers had some "strange" reason to buy it. That said, I think he was an artist. It's just a primitive form of Picasso's Guernica and the horrors of war (or what we know very well, is happening, children being kidnapped and put through torture and often killed, while people keep letting it continue.) He painted real life, but the real life most people pretend is not real. Of course, he wanted it tossed. He had to be a bit insane, having to deal with was in his "imagination".

  35. Anyone raised in the state system can appreciate this art. To others it may be perplexing at best. Just take it at face value. The people meant to understand it will do just that.

  36. I came here after listening to a podcast episode about murdered children; a little girl named Elsie Paroubek was killed in Chicago in 1911 and her picture fascinated Darger…. She became Anna Arondale, the leader of the Vivian Girls!!
    In a time when girls didn't hold any power at all, he made them strong, independent heroines ❤️ thank you, Henry! I wish I could have met you.

  37. I find this fascinating because this wasn't just a world he created, it was his own personal world that he labored over to create.

  38. after watching a documentary about francis bacon, this guy is about as opposite as u can get–other than the abusive pasts.

  39. "can it be considered art if only the artist sees it" – yes! what? yes. You think when Goya was painting on the walls of his house he gave a shit what you thought?

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