Isidor Kaufmann, born in the trade center of the Austro Hungarian monarchy, Arad, moved to Vienna in 1876 to facilitate his artistic studies. Having been turned down by the Academy of Fine Arts there he entered the school of portrait painter Joseph Matthäus Aigner. He was swiftly recognised as a portrait and genre painter of no little talent, but it would be several years before Kaufmann found his true calling in art.
It was in 1894 that Kaufmann made the first of many forays into the shtetls of Eastern Europe to record the culture of traditional Jews, the artist having been drawn to the places where "Jewish life and Jewish feelings vibrate more strongly." It was the growing importance of religion in Kaufmann's life during the 1890's that shaped his best paintings. Travelling widely - Moravia, Upper Hungary, Poland, Ukraine - he captured his subjects first hand in their own environment before returning to his Vienna studio where he worked from sketches to produce his magnificent oil on mahogany portraits. Not content working from memory, the backgrounds and devotional objects in his paintings were painstakingly rendered from life in the rooms of the Old Jewish Museum in Vienna.
- Article on Kaufmann