An American realist painter, Aaron Bohrod was born in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Crane Junior College in Chicago and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, during which time he earned a living doing commercial work for the advertising art departments of local stores. Relocating to New York, Bohrod began training at the Art Students League with John Sloan (1871–1951), who Bohrod would credit as an influence on his art.
Back in Chicago in the early 1930s, he painted urban settings and the life of everyday people, and became immersed in the city’s artistic scene, exhibiting locally, belonging to the Chicago Society of Artists, sketching and discussing with fellow artists, and occasionally taking further classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he also taught briefly in the early 1940s. During the Depression, he supported himself selling watercolors and completed three mural commissions for post offices in Illinois under the WPA. In the 1930s, he also received two prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships, which funded travels to different regions of the country. At the end of the decade, he was accepted into the Associated American Artists group, which included other important regionalist and scene painters like Grant Wood (1892–1942), John Steuart Curry (1897–1946), and Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975); the group employed artists to create affordable lithographs during the Depression.
From 1941 to 1942, Bohrod was an artist-in-residence at Southern Illinois University. During World War II, he worked as an artist correspondent, first for the Army Corps of Engineers in the South Pacific, and then for Life Magazine. In addition to Life, Bohrod’s work was featured in Fortune, Look, Coronet, Esquire, and Time, with cover subjects as notable as Frank Sinatra. Beyond painting, he dabbled in book illustrations, wallpaper and fabric design, and ceramics. Beginning in 1948, until his retirement in 1973, he held an artist residency at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
In the 1950s, Bohrod began employing tromp l’oeil effects in his paintings, creating still lifes with assorted objects. His work has been described as “magical realism” in which representational images include supernatural elements, executed in a hyperrealist style. He was elected a National Academician in 1953.
Bohrod’s work has been exhibited at many venues nationally and internationally, including, but not limited to, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Academy of Design, Madison Art Center, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the White House. In 2007, a centennial retrospective of his work was shown at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. His work is included in the permanent collections of numerous prominent museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Phoenix Art Museum, and Walker Art Center, among others.