Aaron Bohrod remained faithful to the seemingly outmoded form of the still life though the contemporary art scene was moving more and more toward abstraction. The reason for this persistence can be explained neither by mere stubbornness nor by an inability to change with the times. Rather it was his dedication to subject matter and beauty. His work has been praised for its “magic realism,” its ability to render the softness of feathers and the transparency of glass in oil paint. Bohrod himelf asserted, “aesthetic exploration of surface and of substance, the statement-making presentation of meaningful subject matter, and the achievement of plain beautiful painting all take precedence over the business of befuddlement.”
It was his painstaking technique that allows his paintings to achieve both their realism and their beauty. He painted on masonite that had been carefully prepared with gesso so that the surface appears entirely without texture. He claimed that even fine linen, with its woven texture, would be an “annoying factor” in his meticulous process.
Born in Chicago, he attended Crane College, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Art Students League, New York. As a student, he began working with the kinds of objects that would provide the bulk of his subject matter throughout his long career. He wrote: “Having the choice of painting a brand new automobile or a banged up, tumble-down Model-T Ford, I always leaned toward the battered object, in the thought that those objects had a great deal more character than the shiny example of recent manufacture.”
During World War II he served with the Army as an artist-correspondent. In 1948 he became the artist-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin, a position he held until 1973. Beginning in 1953 he devoted himself exclusively to still life painting, a natural progression from his earlier award winning landscapes. These works are full of broken pottery, torn paper, and even human bones. He often juxtaposed organic material with the relative immortality of manufactured objects. These compositions were all carefully planned to allow him to know exactly where he was at every point in the creative process and how that point related to his ultimate goal. In spite of his unfashionable medium, his artwork garnered public acclaim and was very well received by collectors during his lifetime. He was as much a painter of ideas as were his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries.
He received popular and critical acclaim throughout his distinguished career. His paintings are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York among many others. There will be a centennial retrospective at The Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin in 2007.