Intuit opens the first exhibition of its series Henry Darger: The Room Revealed

June 5, 2021

Intuit opens the first exhibition of its series Henry Darger: The Room Revealed

Henry Darger (American, 1892–1973). Angeline Celistine Vivian, c. 1940s. Mixed media on paper, 17 ¼ x 15 ¼ in. Collection of Robert A. Roth. © 2021 Kiyoko Lerner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © John Faier

June 5, 2021—CHICAGO—The first of three exhibitions in a series focusing on the Henry Darger Room and its forthcoming de-installation, Darger as Reader, Writer and Bookmaker, opens at Intuit on Friday, June 11.

Henry Darger: The Room Revealed is a series of three six-week exhibitions that explore Chicago’s world-renowned outsider artist in collaboration with audiences and advisors. Due to growing concern about the fragility of the objects on view, Intuit will de-install the Room for conservation review. Before and during the de-installation, Intuit will engage audiences through these three successive exhibitions that serve as a guest-engagement laboratory to inform the Room’s future re-installation.

The three exhibitions explore 1) Darger as reader, writer, bookmaker and consumer of news, popular culture and children’s fiction, 2) Darger as artist, including his techniques and influences, and 3) the importance of place, including how his native city of Chicago informed his work; the conservation of Darger’s personal objects; and the room de-installation. The series will explore themes and presentation methods through prototypes, interactives and other interpretative materials, while engaging with audiences.

The first in the trilogy, Darger as Reader, Writer and Bookmaker—on view from June 11 to July 18, 2021—focuses on Darger’s literary influences, writing techniques and bookmaking practices, notably his scrapbooks. Evident by his possessions, Darger was a collector of children’s literature, coloring books, National Geographic magazines, Chicago newspapers and Catholic paraphernalia, which influenced his writing and art making. His writings were of critical importance to his later artistic output, and this exhibition focuses on the media he consumed and their influences on what, when and how he wrote. Featured in the exhibition are books and materials from Darger’s collection, as well as a timeline of his writings and access to a recently digitized microfilm copy of his works. Darger as Reader, Writer and Bookmaker draws on the Henry Darger Room Collection and Archive to feature source materials that informed the artistic presentation of the Vivian girls—protagonists from his epic novel—and portraits of the sisters. The exhibition is curated by Intuit Chief Curator Alison Amick with guest curators Michael Bonesteel, Leisa Rundquist and Mary Trent.

Following this exhibition, Intuit will present Methods and Manipulations (July 23–September 6, 2021) and Caring for a Chicago Legacy (September 17–October 31, 2021). Intuit received funding for Henry Darger: The Room Revealed from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the National Endowment for the Arts to support the exhibition series and its activities, including conservation assessment.


Henry Darger (1892-1973)—arguably the most well-known outsider artist—is many art enthusiasts’ introduction to the genre. He is the subject of extensive scholarly investigation and popular culture interest, evident in pieces of music, theatre and literature. For a time he lived in the Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children, formerly in Lincoln, Ill., after which he lived a mostly reclusive life in a one-room home studio in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Upon his death, an extensive body of his art and writings was discovered, including a 15,000-page novel. His work—via paintbrush and pen—addresses themes of gender, religion, violence and adoption, among others. In 2000, his former landlady, Kiyoko Lerner, donated the remaining contents of his space to Intuit, installed as a permanent exhibition in 2008, what is now known as the Henry Darger Room Collection.


Founded in 1991, Intuit is a premier museum of outsider and self-taught art, defined as work created by artists who faced marginalization, overcame personal odds to make their artwork, or who did not, or sometimes could not, follow a traditional path of art making, often using materials at hand to realize their artistic vision. By presenting a diversity of artistic voices, Intuit builds a bridge from art to audiences. The museum’s mission—to celebrate the power of outsider art—is grounded in the ethos that powerful art can be found in unexpected places and made by unexpected creators.

Intuit is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday and provides admission by appointment for guests who need additional access.