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The Search

A work made of painted wood, oil on plastic and glass on wooden base.
Image courtesy of Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

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  • A work made of painted wood, oil on plastic and glass on wooden base.




Forrest Bess
American, 1911-1977

About this artwork

Forrest Bess produced The Search at a pivotal early moment in his career, after he was hospitalized and subsequently released from the US Army. Evoking a vaguely menacing scene, the composition has been understood by some as Bess’s response to the trauma of being beaten for his homosexuality by fellow soldiers during World War II.

The work is the first of three free-standing paintings Bess created on multiple layers of acetate encased in glass and held in a specially constructed frame. It employs a personal symbolism that he further developed in his paintings of the 1950s, seeming to show three flatly rendered figures exiting a cave and making their way into an ambiguous landscape. Describing the role of searching in his process, Bess explained, “I sense that I have very little to do with what is put down … The vision is there … after it is painted I am as muchly an outsider, looking at, as you are.”


Currently Off View


Modern Art


Forrest Bess


The Search


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Painted wood, oil on plastic and glass on wooden base


61 × 66 × 21 cm (24 × 26 × 8 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Marian and Samuel Klasstorner, Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worchester, and Samuel W. and Blanche M. Koffler endowment funds

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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