Aaron Bohrod images and biography
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Aaron Bohrod

See also: American Art


"One of the best artists in America..."
Harry Saltpeter: "Chicago's Gift to Art," Esquire Magazine, November 6, 1939


"Aaron Bohrod was an American artist who was nationally known in his lifetime. He was the subject of frequent exhibitions and gallery shows in various locations, generally focusing on a particular chronological period of his artistic production. The recipient of numerous prizes and awards (including two Guggenheims and the purchase prize at the "Artists for Victory" exhibition of 1942-43 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York), he was both proficient and prolific as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and as an illustrator. In addition, he was the author of several books on art and an autobiography.

"Although he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York with a number of well-known and influential teachers, the one who exerted the most profound influence on him was John Sloan, who taught him to value both the Old Masters and the visual reality of the urban American scene. Bohrod returned to Chicago after studying with Sloan in New York "determined to do in my own way with my own city what Sloan had done with New York." (A Decade of Still Life, p. 5). Bohrod's stylistic development has been typically characterized in terms of his early relationship to the gritty urban realism of the Ashcan School with which Sloan was associated and his later magic realism style with its virtuoso and meticulous technique and witty visual repartee, almost as if they were two separate and unrelated developments. Although his own description of the origins of his unique still life approach in his autobiographical book, A Decade of Still Life, may have guided critics to look at his oeuvre in this way, a closer assessment reveals clear connections between the earlier and alter periods. Before 1940, for example, he had created a prototype of the still lifes that were to become his hallmark. By the mid 1950s, he began to dedicate himself to the creation of paintings that are by turns resonant, mysterious, evocative and humorous. The studied and careful detail of the bricks on the buildings foreshadow the care that Bohrod will lavish on each of the carefully observed and realized objects in his later still lifes, while the anecdotal detail predicts the accumulation of objects on which his later work depends. The polished and masterful technique of this later work also suggests the Old Masters to whom he was introduced by Sloan."

Susan S. Weininger
Professor of Art History
Roosevelt University
Chicago Illinois

Bohrod on Bohrod

World War II

"The War brought many opportunities to me as an artist. At the age of thirty-five when my war-art period began, it would not have expected that I'd be drafted for active military service. Mostly likely, instead of a gun I would have been handed a broom to sweep up some domestic army barracks. I preferred a paint brush to a scrub brush. That I was allowed to paint at all during those hectic times proved to be the greatest gift of all. The opportunity to share in part at least, the life of the fighting soldier and to gain close insight into the miseries and occasional glories of combat made possible the basic understanding essential to pictorial interpretation."

Recurrent Themes

"Often my work has fallen into series of paintings where the execution of one promising result opens possibilities of interesting variation. In this way over a number of years I created a series of what I called "Nudes and Masterpieces." I believe the first on this theme was suitably an Eve: a female nude flanked by a delicate table on which rested an apple, stood against a freely brushed representation of the Massaccio expulsion from Eden. This was followed by some dozen or more similar efforts all in small format...

"Another vein of recurrent interest which I struck was the antique-shop window. With landscape or opposing street often reflected from the shimmering surface of the glass window pane, I depicted jumbled bric-a-brac in a kind of come-and-go of fascinating color, now realizing, now vaguely suggesting the elusive beauty of these sometimes junky objects. In a way these paintings stand as forerunner to my present work, though I did not then think to let the objects serve in a symbolic sense."


"I have never been frightened by the bogey of detail. When detail is integrated into a total scheme, it can only serve to enrich the result...In any good painting there is plenty for sensitive people to ponder without asking them to complete, mentally, the artist's intentions about form.

"Many critics have today become apprehensive of skillful, meticulously realized painting. They are still reacting against the days of the French Salon when the Academy ruled with an iron fist. Fearful that concern for technical proficiency might deny wall space to a Manet or a CÚzanne while granting it to vastly inferior talents, they are predisposed to accept those manifestations of art they feel to be novel or fresh, even though technical execution may be feeble. Critics seem eager to express appreciation of any meaningless but excitingly put down blob of pigment if nobody has thought to put down the blob in just that way before. They can find originality and strong talent in collages of clipped out, designer-arranged, and pasted-down magazine reproductions and other patches of raw material, but they often do not know what to make of an artist who with brush, paint, hand, eye, and heart alone brings to the point of tingling reality an interpretation of the world around him."

Aaron Bohrod
A Decade of Still Life
The University of Wisconsin Press, 1966

"(Bohrod) maintained...that the best way to develop visual vocabulary is to draw. 'I have always believed that if an artist can draw the human figure, he won't have any trouble drawing anything.' For Bohrod, the basis of worthy art relies upon the artist's mastery of drawing."

"...Stylistically, Bohrod's work is what generally is called 'realistic' because the forms that he draws derive their identity from the world of everyday visual experience, even though many of those forms are intentionally altered or distorted in order that he might effectively express varying levels of emotional intensity."

Aaron Bohrod: Figure Sketches (1990) Edwin E. Elliott and Howard E. Wooden

Aaron Bohrod Images

1934 Landscape Near Chicago
1936 The Haircut
1937 Self-Portrait
1944-45 Classie Lassie
1947 Artist in Luxembourg
1956 Bird and Gauntlet
1958 Self Portrait (The Art of Painting)
1958 Still Life with Rembrandt
1962 Sere and Yellow
1963 The Sweet Life
n.d. Nude
n.d. Nude Standing Before Mirror
1978 All This and World War II
1978 Dancing
1978 Seven Beauties

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