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Art and Images in Psychiatry |

In the Realms of the Unreal Henry Darger

James C. Harris, MD1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Developmental Neuropsychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(11):1125-1126. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2017.
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In 1973, when 80-year-old Henry Darger, a retired Chicago janitor and dishwasher, was too frail to climb the stairs to his third floor apartment at 851 Webster Avenue in Lincoln Park, he asked his landlord Nathan Lerner for help in moving into an old age home. Darger had lived in his Chicago apartment for 40 years, and it was filled with his accumulated possessions. Lerner asked Darger what to do with everything in his apartment and was told, “It’s all yours.”1(p15) When Lerner examined Darger’s abandoned apartment, he found a treasure trove! The shy reclusive hospital janitor had lived a secret life as a visual artist and a writer of epics.2

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Henry Darger (1892-1973), American. Realms of the Unreal. “6 Episode 3 Place not mentioned. Escape during violent storm, still fighting though persed [sic] for long distance” (detail). Chicago, Illinois, 1950-1970. Watercolor, pencil, and carbon tracing on pieced paper, 61.0 × 189.9 cm (24 × 743/4 in). Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY. Gift of Nathan and Kiyoko Lerner. © Kiyoko Lerner, 1995.23la. Photograph by Gavin Ashworth.

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