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Isidor Kaufmann

KAUFMANN, ISIDOR (1853–1921), Hungarian painter. He was born in Arad, Hungary. At 14 he started to work and in the evening he drew, decorating his room with his own pictures. A head of Moses, displayed in his uncle's store, attracted the attention of connoisseurs who arranged for the young man to study art, first in Budapest, and then in Vienna. Kaufmann's earliest works – historical paintings – are of no real importance. He achieved originality and strength only after discovering the shtetl. He traveled in Galicia, Poland, and the Ukraine from one village to another, making sketches. He had a meteoric career. Emperor Franz Josef bought The Rabbi's Visit and presented it to Vienna's Museum of Fine Art. Honors were bestowed upon the artist by the German emperor, and even the Russian czar. After his death his reputation declined. Kaufmann did not intend to open up new avenues of aesthetic perception; rather he wanted to tell stories or illustrate subjects of everyday Jewish life. His small genre paintings have definite charm, and his numerous portraits were executed with taste and skill. At the same time, his pictures are of considerable historical value, as they document the folkloristic aspects of the shtetl, and the shtibl (small synagogue) with ritual objects. Beyond this, he can be appreciated as a cultured observer who, with his sensitive brush, sought to reproduce every nuance of the people and objects he portrayed. His son PHILIP KAUFMANN (1888–1969), who emigrated from Vienna to England in 1938, also achieved a reputation as a painter.


Kunta, in: Ost und West, 3 (1903), 590–603, includes plates; H. Menkes, Isidor Kaufmann; A Painter of Jewish Life (1925); A. Wiener in: Jewish Chronicle Literary Supplement, Dec. 4, 1970.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.