Aaron Bohrod was born on Chicago's West Side in 1907, the third child of Jewish immigrant parents. He gravitated toward art as a child and later pursued formal study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Both the classroom instruction and his exposure to the museum’s collection and library had significant effects on his development. During this
time, Bohrod also earned a living as a commercial artist in the advertising art departments of local stores, including the discount retailer the Fair Store.
Drawn toward “the mecca for all young artists,” Bohrod relocated to New York City, where he studied at the Art Student’s League from 1929–32 with notable American artists and instructors John Sloan, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Boardman Robinson. Bohrod credited Sloan’s insistence on humble, everyday subjects, and on “vitality in painting” as key underpinnings for his own art.
After his return to Chicago in 1932, Bohrod put Sloan’s teachings into practice by seeking out a wide range of urban locales for his paintings: “backyards and alleys and garage eaves and rooftops, and the parks, and the setting for the life of everyday people.” Working from his studio on North Avenue, Bohrod quickly established himself as a vital member of the city’s artistic community painting in the Regionalist and Social-Realist styles.
From 1942 to 1945, Bohrod was an artistic war correspondent in the European Theatre for Life Magazine and also worked for the army Corps of Engineers. In 1948 he replaced John Steuart Curry as the second Artist in Residence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. A few years later, his continued work with the university's Rural Art Program created enough interest in program activities that the Wisconsin Rural Artist Association was established. Bohrod was Artist in Residence at UW Madison until his retirement in 1973.
In the late 1940's Bohrod became part of a growing tendency toward illusion and fantasy, a style called Magic Realism. His late "trompe l'oeil" still lifes, begun in the 1950's, are filled with allusions, puns, and jibes that refer to many cultures and different eras. He often included art historical references, found objects and faux surfaces in his work to create those illusions. In the early 1950's he traveled extensively throughout Wisconsin and Michigan, making sketches of the landscapes along the way. His intense study of nature resulted in smaller paintings that became more detailed.