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Forrest Bess created one of the most singular and enigmatic bodies of work in the 20th Century. Fueled by a rich and highly personal philosophy and attendant iconography, Bess created paintings that are small in scale, but rich in mystery. Like other so-called "idiosyncratic" artists of their time, like Arthur Dove, Myron Stout or Louise Bourgeois, Bess followed his own muse and his work evades easy connection with any art movement or school. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is fortunate to have a large holding of his paintings, only some of which are on offer. An artist whose work rarely comes to market, having five paintings in an auction is indeed a rare event.
Meyer Schapiro, the noted art historian who corresponded regularly with Bess, wrote most cogently about the artist, stating "Forrest Bess is that kind of artist rare at any time, a real visionary painter. He is not inspired by texts of poetry or religion, but by a strange significance in what he alone has seen. He also paints what he imagines and is faithful to its character as the imagined. It maybe the heavens or the ocean, but the picture is small, true to the size of the image in his head, and a unique picture, never repeating or re-arranging an already achieved view. This painted images is perfectly clear like a printed emblem or sign" (M. Schapiro, quoted in Forrest Bess, New York, 1988.