Introduction

Henry Darger Room Collection

Temporarily de-installed as of October 31, 2021

Henry Darger Room Collection

Henry Darger Room Collection

Who is Henry Darger?

Chicago’s most famous outsider artist lived in a one-room apartment in the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood until 1973 when he retired to a nursing facility. In his small room—which doubled as a studio and home for close to 40 years—Henry Darger worked on a large number of painted and collaged drawings that illustrated the story of the Vivian Girls, created volumes of writings, and collected hundreds of objects (shoes, eyeglasses, balls of string, etc.). The contrast between the intimate scale of the room and the staggering volume of drawings, illustrations, writings and collections conveys vital information about Darger’s existence and the work he created.

In spring 2000, Intuit took possession of the contents of artist Henry Darger’s living and working space, which was located at 851 Webster Avenue. The Henry Darger Room Collection at Intuit includes tracings, clippings from newspapers, magazines, comic books, cartoons, children’s books, coloring books, personal documents, architectural elements, fixtures and furnishings from Darger’s original room.

Opened in 2008, the permanent exhibition was installed with the goal to create an environment that provides a window onto Darger’s world. The installation symbolizes the stark contrasts that are so vividly portrayed in Darger’s vast and complex oeuvre. Experiencing Darger’s personal environment through the installation will provide an important link to the man who struggled relentlessly throughout his life to give expression to the polarized spectrum of humanity. The archive and material represent a vital resource and the installation enhances the understanding and appreciation of the art of Henry Darger by providing artists, scholars, and the public access to a unique and innovative archive of study materials.

If you have questions about the Henry Darger Room Collection or about the artist, please contact Intuit at intuit@art.org.

Please note: Intuit dismantled the Henry Darger Room for conservation review as part of the exhibition series Henry Darger: The Room Revealed. While the exhibition is temporarily de-installed, Intuit encourages guests to explore the Room here.


Take a virtual tour

Tour the Henry Darger Room from your device! To read labels and see a work of art up close, click on the blue and teal pins; click the URL in the pop-up to open the file in another window.


Watch The Secret Life and Art of Henry Darger

The Secret Life and Art of Henry Darger by The Good Stuff, a member of PBS Digital Studios, features the Henry Darger Room Collection.


Listen to Darger’s records

Found among the books, tracings and furnishings of Henry Darger’s one-room home studio were records. Tune in to a selection of songs from Darger’s collection along with compositions using Darger’s words, created, scored and produced by Philippe Cohen Solal with Mike Lindsay. Playlist cover photo © John Faier

The songs from the album OUTSIDER are courtesy of ¡Ya Basta! Records and Philippe Cohen Solal. Intuit thanks them for sharing these recordings. Learn more at www.outsideronline.co.


Read Darger’s writings

Henry Darger’s manuscripts were copied to microfilm by Kiyoko Lerner in the 1990s, and Ms. Lerner donated a copy of the microfilm to Intuit. Thanks to generous Intuit donors, Intuit digitized the microfilm reels of Henry Darger’s famed manuscript 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, which was previously inaccessible at the museum without special equipment. Darger’s writings, including Darger’s Weather ReportsHistory of My Life and Vivian Girls in Chicago, are now accessible via the Illinois State Library website. To view, go to the volume you wish to read and click the “Expand” arrows in the top right corner. Please be patient; it may take some time to access these riveting stories.


Bring Darger’s art into your classroom

Check out the Henry Darger Resource Kit for Educators!


Learn more about Henry Darger and Intuit


Visit the official Henry Darger website

Find information on official Darger collections, events and exhibitions at www.officialhenrydarger.com.


Thank you

Many thanks to the late Nathan Lerner for discovering the genius of Henry Darger and to Kiyoko Lerner for her generous gift of the contents of Henry Darger’s room to Intuit. Sincere thanks to all donors and contributors: Robert A. Roth, for his critical financial support and for acquiring and loaning the Vivian Girl portraits, and Kohler Foundation, Inc., John MacGregor, Patrick King/Midwest Freeze Dry, Kavi Gupta, Jim Zanzi, Barbara and Kent Manning, The Roads Scholarship for Research and Travel/The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and contributors to the Darger’s Army fund. This project is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Sincere thanks to all who contributed to the process of creating the Henry Darger Room Collection. Measured drawings: Larry Harris, Kent Manning. Interior architecture: Angie Mills. Packing/moving Darger room contents: Stuart Grannan/Architectural Artifacts staff, Mike and Jim Hinchsliff, Tim and Katie Tuten and the Hideout staff, Judy Saslow, Randy Vick, Jamie Young, and all volunteers. Darger Room collection catalog: Juliana Driever, Jessica Moss, Farris Wahbeh. Conservation consultation and treatment: David Chandler, Dan Cochrane Conservation, Margo McFarland. Production, construction, room preparation: Sherry Diaz, for expert carpentry, design, and preparation, and Matthew DuPont, James Connolly, David Olfasen, Jan Petry. Photography: William Bengtson, John Faier. Print Art Direction: David Syrek and Joe Darrow.