Learn from Lost Linchpin, Henry Darger
April 12 1892 – April 13, 1973
Henry Darger, an artist, a recluse, and now a mystery. At the age of 81, Henry died in 1973, four years before I was born. Yet, today I am inspired by his story and must share it with you.
Henry Darger: Lived in Chicago, dressed daily in a hand-mended army coat, held a lifelong career mostly as a janitor with only three known photos to capture his likeness. By day a menial worker, a recluse, and dedicated Catholic with daily attendance to mass, but by night an artist, a story teller, author and conversationalist only to himself.
Henry authored an epic journey filling more than 15,000 pages, wrote his autobiography exceeding 5,000 pages, logged thousands of hand written notes, and painted nearly 300 water color paintings and countless sketches and drawings. A prolific expression of art and passion.
In 1909 he began the writing and illustrating of his 15,000+ page epic. No teachings, art lessons, or mentors. He started his own way. Clipped from magazines and newspapers as source material and used these images in future works. In his own ways, these clippings were used and reused as overlays, collages, tracings and inspiration to create the pictures in his head that reflected his vast and complex fictional world.
Henry read every paper published, the morning edition and the evening edition, all he could find as source material. He used butcher paper as his canvas and glued sheets together sometimes 12 feet long – often painted on both sides.
For his epic he wrote his own lyrics to Calvary songs, kept notes on the fictitious cost of the war he was chronicling and included character notes, plot points, and many other notes for his work of passion. He was meticulous and experimental in his approach. But he was also not limited to just the one story in his mind. Along with his autobiography, a short story about a twister, he committed 10 years to journaling Chicago’s weather several times daily specifically discounting and admonishing the local weatherman and his inaccuracies.
It is reported that Henry slept in a chair only a few hours a night, never in a bed. No television, not evenings out, nothing other than his reclusive expression of art and passion. In isolation his work was really never known until after his death. His work never enjoyed by others, his passion never conveyed one-on-one, his gift virtually hidden for his entire life of 81 years.
With almost 300 paintings, more than 30,000 pages of written works, a single typed manuscript of “In the Realms of The Unreal” spanning 15,145 pages, Henry left us with an epic journey that ends with both a glorious victory and fateful defeat – truly two different endings to the saga. Why? We will never know.
Henry Darger died on April 13, 1973 at 81 years old – only 1 day after his birthday.
Henry is now acclaimed as one of the most famous figures in “outsider art” and his paintings have sold for more than $80,000.
Henry lives inside us – each one of us.
We all have a story like Henry’s waiting to be told. Perhaps you are already telling it in solitude or perhaps you are storing up, withholding it because you are waiting for the right time. Learn from Henry, what you need to know, you already possess – the rest you will learn as you go, but go you must. Let your art go.
81 years is too long to wait to see what you have to share with us. Start today and celebrate it tomorrow – with friends. A great group of friends are coming together to share their talents and gifts and would love to have you at The Linchpin Way.