Pittsburgh Alleyway, c. 1946, oil on gouache on paper on “prestwood” (Masonite), 9 x 12 inches, signed lower middle, Bohrod’s original label verso from his gallery at 4811 Tonyawatha Trail, Madison Wisconsin 53716, includes title, dimensions, media and date
About the Painting
Pittsburgh Alleyway is an excellent example of Bohrod’s American Scene works from the 1940s when he depicted the ordinary lives of the common person (in this case children) in the otherwise forgotten and neglected neighborhoods of America’s Rust Belt. During the years between the World Wars, the American Scene genre had two major strains which co-existed, sometimes uncomfortably. The first type, called Regionalism, was rural, small-town oriented, nostalgic and to a large extent romantic. The second type, called Social Realism, was urban, gritty, more realistic and sometimes even menacing. Pittsburgh Alleyway falls within Social Realism. It reflects the considerable influence of the Ash Can School painter, John Sloan, who was one of Bohrod’s most influential instructors at the Art Students League in New York. Despite the bright palette, there is something unsettling about the image of two very young children playing alone in the alley while two large trees, one of which inexplicably emerges from between two buildings to the right side of the work, hover overhead. The torn circus posters only add to the unease. In many ways, Pittsburgh Alleyway gives us a subtle preview of Bohrod’s later more surrealist and magic realist works.
About the Artist
Aaron Bohrod was among the most famous American Scene painters working in the Midwest during the 1930s and 1940s. Later in the 1950s and beyond, Bohrod’s work took on a more surrealist or magical realist quality, particularly as he crafted small, meticulous trump l’oeil paintings. Born in 1907, Bohrod spent his adult life in Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, where he took over the artist-in-residence position at the University of Wisconsin after the unexpected death of John Steuart Curry. Bohrod served as a war correspondent and artist for Life magazine and the US military during World War II. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League. His works were included in a large number of national exhibitions, including at the National Academy of Design (where was a National Academician), the Corcoran Gallery, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Golden Gate International Exposition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Art Institute of Chicago, where he won several significant awards (including the Logan Prize). During his long career, Bohrod was represented by several of the nation’s most prestigious galleries, including Frank Rehn, Milch and Associated American Artists, among others. His works are held in the permanent collections of dozens of museums across the country, and he is extensively listed in all standard references, including Who was Who in American Art.