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Selections by Aaron Bohrod of his paintings

Taylor, John Lloyd
Introduction to Aaron Bohrod exhibit (Madison Art Center),   pp. 4-5


Page 4

 
   INTRODUCTION TO AARON BOHROD EXHIBIT (MADISON ART CENTER) 
      November 29 - December 31, 1966      by JOHN LLOYD TAYLOR 
      It is with considerable pride that we present this retrospective exhibition
of the work of Aaron Bohrod, certainly the most important trompe-l'oeil painter
of our time, and one of the most distinguished artists of the American scene
from the mid-1930's. To show fully the development and the rather unusual
transitions that span his past thirty-seven years of intense productivity,
one hundred eighteen paintings, twenty drawings, and sixteen prints have
been 
collected for this exhibition. At least one work was selected to represent
each of those years, beginning with 1929, while he was an art student in
New York, 
to 1966 with a painting completed as recently as a month ago. Somewhat more
than one-half of the works are from the post-1953 still life period as it
is our 
belief that an artist's most recent work is in many ways his most significant.
      Aaron Bohrod was born in 1907, on Chicago's West Side, the son of a
Russian 'emigre' grocer. After one year at the Art Institute of Chicago where
he 
began his art studies, he went to New York to study under John Sloan at the
Art Student's League. The effects of both Chicago and Sloan were to shape
the 
first twenty years of his career as an artist. In 1929, he returned to his
native 
city and within a few years had gained prominence as Chicago's singularly
most 
important artist for his satires on her streets and her people. What Sloan
was 
to New York, Bohrod was to Chicago - the portrayer of the shabbier side of
city life. Ramshackle buildings, desolate streets, and the people of a depression
era are expressed in both bright and slushy colors with a profound emotion
that depicts the entire character of his subject matter. Of equal stature
to his 
Chicago paintings are the street scenes of small, mid-western towns; Carbondale
and Peoria, Illinois are no less dramatically the objects of his sharp observations.
By the 1940's Bohrod had earned a reputation as one of the finest watercolor
and gouache painters in America. During the Second World War, he worked 
as an artist-correspondent in the European and Pacific theatres for the 
U.S. Engineers and later for Life magazine. His countless paintings and drawings
poignantly comment on both victor and vanquished, stunningly portraying the
universal tragedy and futility of war. There can be little doubt that he
ranks 
as the greatest American artist of World War II. 
      The transition in most artists' work is generally from the representational
to the more abstract, from the more tightly and studiously controlled composition
to one of greater looseness and spontaneity. In Bohrod's work the opposite
has occurred. His early paintings are marked by a considerable degree of
spontaneous feeling and simplicity of form. With the exception of a single
venture 
into complete abstraction in 1933, his style became progressively more structured
through rigid control of his forms, and by the late thirties he began developing
a flair for detailed and precise rendering of his subject matter. In 1953,
while working from a series of drawings he had made that summer of the 
rocky shores of Lake Superior, he became aware that the paintings were 
lacking a certain quality of incisiveness suggested by the sketches. Using
pebbles 
and stones as models for the rocks and boulders in his sketches, he experienced
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