Frederick O’Hara was born on August 6, 1904 in Ottowa, Canada. His family move to Virginian in the U.S. in 1918 when he was 14 years old. At age 17 he got a job as a copy boy at the Boston Globe newspaper and in 1922 also began studying art at the Massachusetts Art School., graduating in 1926. He then studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. During this time, until quitting in 1929 he had been doing cartoons for the Boston Globe.
O’Hara spent 1929 through 1935 in Europe, living in Paris, France, Toledo, Spain and short periods in Marrakesh, Fez, Florence, Tunisia and Berlin. He returned to the U.S. in 1935, as the Depression descended on Europe and the U.S.
He got the job as Director of the Santa Barbara School of the Arts in California between 1937 and 39, marrying in 1939. The couple moved to a small ranch on the Guadalupe Trail, north of Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1941, teaching painting intermittingly at the University of New Mexico.
In 1949 printmaker Adja Yunkers moved to Albuquerque and they became fast friends, Yunkers teaching O’Hara his woodcutting and monotype techniques. In 1950 he learned lithography from New Mexico printmaker-teacher Elmer Schooley.
O’Hara began a series of experimental prints, transferring his monotypes onto lithographic plates, which he describes in detail in an essay “An Adventure in Printmaking” in 1960. His technique included stencil, Formica and paper cut outs and unusual inking to create his images. His images focused heavily on Navajo culture and spirituality, with much abstraction.
In 1961 and 1962 he did a series of color lithographs at the newly founded Tamarind Workshop in Los Angeles, California. In 1962 O’Hara moved to La Jolla, California, where his work became more figurative.
Frederick O’Hara died in La Jolla, California on March 28, 1980.