Details & Cataloguing

The History of Now: The Important American Folk Art Collection of David Teiger | Sold to Benefit Teiger Foundation for the Support of Contemporary Art

New York

At Jennie Richee, Escape During Approach of New Storm
Henry Darger
watercolor, pencil, and collage on three sheets of manila paper
Height 19 in. by Width 70 1/4 in.
circa 1940
Chicago, Illinois
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The artist;
Galerie St. Etienne, New York. 

Catalogue Note

Henry Darger’s, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, is the fictional history of an epic war fought between an alliance of four great Catholic nations and an evil empire, Glandelinia, that practices child slavery.  The heroines of the novel are the seven Vivian sisters, who help to free kidnapped children enslaved in Glandelinia, a nation of corrupt and evil adults.  The epic spanned 15 volumes and includes some 15,000 pages, only seven of which were ever bound by Darger.  It is believed that Darger worked for approximately twenty years writing Realms and spent nearly five decades illustrating it.1

In the large panoramic scene, 49. At Jennie Richee, escape during approach of new storm needed into enemy lines, we encounter a scene of 29 girls, including the Vivians, escaping over the fictional Aronburg’s Run River.  While the image may be somewhat shocking due to the exposed male and female genitals of the young girls, it certainly was not to Darger.  As a youngster Darger was a fan of Frank Baum’s Oz series, and in the second volume The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904) we meet a young boy named Tip.  Tip was eventually revealed to be a girl named Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz, who had been transformed into a boy as an infant by a witch.2

On the reverse of the monumental panorama there is an equally impressive triptych.  In the first of the three triptychs, At General Vivian Anna head-quarters Jennie gets a toothache pulls it and uses it to scrape cement from prison bars, we see an example of Darger’s use of printed media.  He amassed thousands of clippings from newspapers, paperbacks, cartoons and magazines to incorporate into his works.  One of these many clippings is seen hanging above the Vivian sisters, a late 19th century or early 20th century engraving printed in black and white.  Another example known to incorporate one of these similar images is At Jennie Richee. While sending warning to their father watch night black cloud of coming storm through windows, in which we find a printed reproduction of Martin Johnson Heade’s Thunderstorm on Narrangansett Bay (1868).3

The Vivian sisters themselves are traced images from early lifestyle magazines and advertisements.  In the central scene, They escape climbing down a 250 foot rope, we see a near identical form reproduced depicting Jennie as in the previous image. In both scenes, we see Jennie with her right arm raised to her right and her weight leaning over her left leg while her skirt appears to blow in the wind.  Looking at all three of the images on this side of the double-sided work we are able to see other similarities in the postures of the Vivian sisters.  The rightmost work on this side, Break Jail Killing and Wounding Guards, is the most violent of the four works incorporated in this piece.  We find the Vivian sisters engaged in combat with their much older male captors.     

Darger is considered to be one of the greatest Outsider artists known and his works have been highly sought by private collectors and institutions. There are examples of his work included in the American Folk Art Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland and INTUIT: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art in Chicago. 

1 Biesenbach, Klaus, Henry Darger, (New York: Prestel Publishing, 2014), p. 11-2 and 15. 
2 See ibid, p. 13. 
3 See ibid, p. 144-145.

The History of Now: The Important American Folk Art Collection of David Teiger | Sold to Benefit Teiger Foundation for the Support of Contemporary Art

New York