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Bess, Forrest (1911-1977)  
page: 1  2  3  4  

Although the results of the surgery were verified, the precise details of the procedures that Bess underwent in 1960 and 1961 remain unclear. Bess is supposed to have recorded full information on the surgery in a notebook that was lost in 1968 by the medical editor of the Washington Star to whom Bess had entrusted it in the hope of securing its publication. It is known that a local physician, R. H. Jackson, was present at the operations, but many commentators think that Bess may have performed them himself.

Dismayed by horrified reactions to announcements of his transformation, Bess became increasingly withdrawn and depressed. Furthermore, numerous physical and psychological problems plagued him during the later years of his life. His nose had become cancerous, and he had to have a substantial part of it removed in 1966. Because of his skin cancer, he was forced to retire from his bait business in Chinquapin and move to a house in Bay City, where he could be cared for by relatives.

In 1973 and again in 1974, Bess was arrested for disruptive behavior in public. After he suffered a stroke in 1974, his brother committed him to San Antonio Mental Hospital and, subsequently, to Bay Villa Nursing Home, where he lived until his death on November 11, 1977.

Despite the difficulties of his later years, Bess continued to paint until 1974, and his artistic powers remained undiminished by his harsh experiences. In 1988 and 1989, major retrospective exhibitions of his work at Hirschl and Adler Modern Gallery, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne helped to stimulate interest in his work. Since then, his unique, poetic works belatedly have begun to receive the critical acclaim that they merit.

Richard G. Mann

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Brenson, Michael. "Forrest Bess: Desire Ruled his Vision." New York Times (May 1, 1988): H-35.

Ennis, Michael. "His Name was Forrest Bess." Texas Monthly (June 1982); online at

Fishcer, Alfred M. Forrest Bess: Here Is a Sign. Cologne: Museum Ludwig, 1989.

Hall, Lee. Betty Parsons: Artist, Dealer, Collector. New York: Abrams, 1991.

Kalil, Susie. The Texas Landscape, 1900-1986. Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, 1986.

Preston, Stuart. "Painters Following Their Different Gleams." New York Times (January 14, 1962): X-17.

Russell, John. "Ryder and the Disciples of his Poetic Vision." New York Times (December 1, 1989): C-30.

Walker, Jeff. "About Forrest Bess."

Yau, John. Forrest Bess. New York: Hirschl & Adler Modern, 1988.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Bess, Forrest  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated October 15, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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