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 Aaron Bohrod  (1907 - 1992)

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Lived/Active: Wisconsin/Illinois      Known for: mod genre-landscape and trompe still life painting

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Ad Code: 3
Aaron Bohrod
from Auction House Records.
View of the Chicago River
© Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY See Details
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for a range of work in watercolor and gouache that included realist figures in cityscapes, landscapes, surrealism, and trompe l'oeil painting, Aaron Bohrod spent his early career in Chicago where he was born on the West Side.

In 1948, he moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he became a long-time a member of the art faculty and satisfied the inclinations of many artists who leaned towards European-influenced modernism.  In this university position, he replaced John Steuart Curry, Regionalist painter from Kansas, who had died.  Many artists led by Surrealist Marshall Glasier thought Curry had been provincial and limited in subject matter and style.

In the late 1920's, Bohrod studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then went to New York City to attend the Art Students League.  He returned to his hometown in 1930 and resided there until the move to Wisconsin.

Influenced strongly by the Social Realism of John Sloan, whom he knew from New York, Bohrod painted city people, utilizing a wide array of styles ranging from a tight, detailed manner to one that was more abstract and sketch like.  One of his subjects explored in a series of paintings was the neighborhood where he grew up on the North Side of Chicago.  Many of them convey the loneliness and poverty of the Depression years.

He spent some time in the South Pacific during World War II as a war artist and in Europe on assignments from "Life" magazine and from the U.S. Engineers to record the events of World War II in Normandy, Cherbourg, England, Germany and the South Pacific.  His completed paintings are in the Pentagon Collection.  Following this assignment, he served for one year, 1942 to 1943, as Artist-in-Residence at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

In the late 1940's Bohrod began working with ceramics, which he said influenced him towards surrealism with odd juxtapositions that embraced the style of trompe l'oeil (fool-the-eye).  Unlike many surrealists, his work did not have nightmarish undertones.  During this period, his painting became increasingly realistic.

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Artists
Louise Dunn Yochim, Role and Impact: The Chicago Society of Artists
Elizabeth Kennedy, Chicago Modern, 1893-1945

Biography from Williams American Art Galleries:
Aaron Bohrod’s work has not been limited to one style or medium.  Initially recognized as a regionalist painter of American scenes, particularly of his native Chicago, Bohrod later devoted himself to detailed still-life paintings rendered in the trompe l’oeil style. He also worked for several years in ceramics and wrote a book on pottery.

Born in 1907, Bohrod began his studies at Chicago’s Crane Junior College in 1925, and two years later enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago.  But it was at the Art Students League in New York City, from 1930 to 1932, that he studied under the man believed to be his most significant early influence, John Sloan.  Sloan’s romantic realism is reflected in the many depictions of Chicago life, which comprised most of Bohrod’s early work. 

Under Sloan’s tutelage, Bohrod came to subscribe to the belief that painters should find the subjects of their art in the immediate world around them.  These paintings emphasized architecture unique to north Chicago and featured Chicagoans engaged in such everyday activities as working, playing or going to the theatre.  The romantic aspect was conveyed by the use of misty colors, and the realism by attention to detail.

In 1936, Bohrod won the Guggenheim Fellowship award in creative painting.  It enabled him to travel the United States, producing similar regionalist paintings on a much broader range of subjects.  Nevertheless, most of his early work centered on Chicago and the urban Midwest.

In 1943, Bohrod was commissioned by editors of Life magazine to cover the battlefronts as a war correspondent and artist.  Three years later, Bohrod was invited to become the Artist in Residence at the University of Wisconsin, a position that became vacant with the unexpected death of John Steuart Curry.  He would remain at the University from 1948 to his retirement in 1973. 

Then, quite atypically, fantasy started to appear in his work.  Elements of Surrealism, supposedly inspired by his concurrent involvement in ceramics with F. Carlton Ball, began influencing his landscapes.  By 1953, Bohrod had completely ceased painting landscapes, turning instead to often symbolic still-life subjects.  He abandoned his earlier romantic realism to paint in the luminous trompe l’oeil tradition of William Harnett.  Bohrod continued to produce these meticulously crafted fantasies exclusively.  While in his position at the University of Wisconsin, Bohrod painted covers for Time magazine and authored two books, A Pottery Sketch-book (1959) and A Decade of Still Life (1966), in which are produced many of his trompe l’oeil paintings.

Bohrod died in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1992.

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