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Aaron Bohrod

(1907 - 1992)

American artist Aaron Bohrod devoted himself to subject matter and beauty, even though it did not reflect the more popular art trends. While other artists were moving towards abstraction, he continued to convey, with grace and skill, the beauty of the Middle American scene.

Born on November 21, 1907 on the west side of Chicago, Illinois, Aaron Bohrod was the son of an immigrant Russian grocer. As a young boy, he had a passion to draw and with the support of his parents, he decided to pursue a career in art. After attending the Art Institute of Chicago, he studied under John Sloan at the Art Students League in New York City from 1930 to 1932.

Bohrod took a job in the 1930s working for the Chicago Federal Art Project. His paintings documented Chicago street scenes of the post-Depression era. His work depicted the city and its working class, and was classified as social realism. In 1936, he won the Guggenheim Fellowship that allowed him to travel throughout the United States painting regionalist scenes. Due to his outstanding ability to capture the life and arena of the Great Depression, Aaron Bohrod came to be regarded as one of the leading ‘American Regionalists’.

The artist was commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936 to paint three monumental size murals for various Illinois Post Offices. His work was a tribute to small town life during the Great Depression.

In 1943, Life Magazine commissioned Bohrod to paint battlefronts as a war correspondent. His sensational images of war-ravaged Europe in World War II caught the world’s attention and catapulted his career to new heights.

In 1948, after teaching for a brief period at the Southern Illinois Normal University, Aaron Bohrod was asked to take the position of artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin, a post he held until he retired in 1973. During this time, he enjoyed traveling through Wisconsin, interacting and lecturing to aspiring artists in rural areas.

Beginning in 1953, Bohrod devoted himself exclusively to still life painting, often using a method known as ‘trompe l’oeil’ (fool the eye). This meticulous technique combined the usage of broken pottery, torn paper, and even human bones. Creating a distinctive style of art was his manner of reacting against Abstract Expressionism and other stylistically Modern developments. Works from this period garnered public acclaim and were in demand by collectors during his lifetime.

Over the years, Aaron Bohrod’s paintings appeared in such magazines as Life, Look, Time, Esquire, Holiday, and Fortune, as well as in major art journals. He also left the world a book entitled "A Decade of Still Life", describing his experiences in 1966. The artist lived out the last of his years in Madison, Wisconsin and died in 1992.

Movements associated with Aaron Bohrod:
American artists, Regionalism


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