FEATURED | Henry Darger 'Attack of the Tuskahorians'

‘Monika Kinley and Victor Musgrave chose to seek out and collect artworks that they felt were genuinely original and intuitive: art that ‘tapped into the mains electricity of the imagination’ – Holly Grange, Curator of the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection, the Whitworth.

Exhibition view: Conversations Series II: ‘Other Transmissions’ Artlink Hull.

Exhibition view: Conversations Series II: ‘Other Transmissions’ Artlink Hull.

‘Other Transmissions’ at Artlink Hull brings together the resulting artworks developed through Conversations Series II and the seven pieces that inspired them, from the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection, housed by the Whitworth.

Amongst these significant works we feel privileged to be exhibiting Attack of the Tuskahorians, by Henry Darger, one of the few renowned ‘Outsider artists’ to achieve mainstream success in the art world. A recent sale of his work at Christie’s New York caused excitement, the same as another did the year before, with a work selling for nearly $700,000 – a lot for an artist classified under this umbrella.

Henry Darger (1892-1973) was a reclusive hospital janitor and dishwasher who led a secret life as a prolific visual artist and epic novelist. His vast collection of creative work was discovered in 1972 when his two-room apartment in Chicago was cleared out shortly before he died. Over 350 watercolour, pencil, collage and carbon-traced drawings, most of them stitched into three enormous albums, as well as seven typewritten hand-bound books, thousands of bundled sheets of typewritten text, and numerous journals, ledgers and scrapbooks were discovered. Several books and works were shown to delighted audiences in New York, in 2018 at the American Folk Art Museum’s exhibition ‘Vestiges and Verse.’

The visual subject matter of his work ranges from idyllic scenes in Edwardian interiors and tranquil flowered landscapes populated by children and fantastic creatures, to scenes of horrific terror and carnage. Much of his artwork is mixed media with collage elements.

After in-depth discussions around the works of so-called ‘outsider artists’, individuals belonging to no movement or school, who are self-taught and marginalised from the ‘mainstream’ art world, the six residency artists have purposely chosen not to display the artists biographies alongside the works. This was to ensure that the visitors and viewers of the work aren’t tainted by the labels society and the art world has placed on them, in written biographies and descriptions.

Conversations Series II is the second iteration of a multi-year programme led by Venture Arts, designed to enable and empower the voices of artists with learning disabilities, focused on the power of their work as opposed to the ideas of ‘art world status’.

Henry Darger’s work is rarely exhibited in the UK, yet alone in such an intimate setting.

‘Other Transmissions’ continues at Artlink Hull until 21 June 2019, so there’s still time to catch this exhibition.

For more information about Henry Darger:


For more information about the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection: https://musgravekinleycollection.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/henry-darger-reclusive-janitor-by-day-and-visionary-artist-by-night/

Full image credit: Henry Darger, Attack of the Tuskahorians, Date unknown, Watercolour on paper, The Whitworth, The University of Manchester. Presented by the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection Trust in 2010


Kate Royle