Who is this autistic savant-artist that I read about?

I recall either seeing something on TV, or a website, about some guy who was I believe an autistic savant, or something like that. I could be totally mistaken about that. But I do remember that he was a recluse who lived in a crummy apartment and I think he was a janitor or some other low-level job.

Anyway, it turned out that he had created this amazingly detailed children’s fantasy universe, complete with really beautiful illustrations. Dragons, fairies, etc, I think I recall seeing. He had sort of invented this fantasy life for himself and lived in it through his artwork.

Who was this guy? Is he still alive?

I believe you’re thinking of Henry Darger who died on April 13, 1973. There was an excellent documentary about him called In the Realms of the Unreal that came out in 2004.

Not for nothing: I saw his exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum a number of years ago and it blew my mind. And his illustrations are a lot less innocent than your description indicates. To me it’s like an acid vision of 1920s handpainted wallpaper filled with menaced children, many of them little girls with penises. example