Sunday, 16 August 2009

Isidor Kaufmann (1853-1921)

"Portrait of a boy"

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.

"Portrait of a Rabbi"

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.

Kaufmann was driven by his own faith to move beyond the limited genre scenes of his early career and elevate his subjects in the impassioned, unsentimental portraits he produced in the late 19th century. According to Richard Cohen, Kaufmann was "involved in uncovering the inner spirit of the Eastern European Jews on their daily life and pursuits. While evoking both intensity of feeling and devotion, Kaufmann's paintings also show a perceptive appreciation of the human side to ghetto life, portrayed with concern for detail and emotion. Kaufmann addressed themes of everyday life, redolent with compassion and devotion" (Jewish Icons, University of California Press, 1998, p. 173)

- Article on Kaufmann


"Child with lulav"

"Portrait of a Rabbi with a fur hat"

"Portrait of a young boy with Peyot"

"Portrait of a Yeshiva boy"

"Portrait of a Rabbi wearing a Kittel and Tallith"

"Rabbi with prayer shawl"

"Young Rabbi from N" (Tate Gallery, London)

"Girl with flowers in her hair"


cyurkanin said...

... my ...

... maybe a new rival for my favorite post...

Outstanding treasure you found here. Thank you.

Hels said...

Isidor Kaufmann also painted much more complex genre scenes, families and friends in household settings. He was loved, I suppose, because he carefully documented an era that was coming to a rapid end.

But his portraits were more refined, more emotional, more sensitive. Thanks for bringing Kaufmann back


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

These are wonderful. Your blog is a treasure.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Enzie Shahmiri said...

I did not know about this very talented portrait painter. His skin tones are just outstanding and I wanted to thank you for introducing me to his work.

I have shared three of the images on my blog with a link back to your wonderful blog.

Renê Tomczak said...

Wonderful! Congratulations !!