LiveAuctionTalk.com Highlights Jewish Genre Painter in its Weekly Free Article Rosemary McKittrick is a trusted source in the art, antique and collectible community. Visit her site and sign up for a free weekly subscription. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's.
News-Antique.com - Apr 02,2007 - Isidor Kaufmann rarely painted 19th century Jews in the threadbare clothing they wore all week. He painted them in their Sabbath finery.
He painted their hope and heritage. He painted their humanity. For that he is called the most important Jewish genre painter.
With a simple brushstroke Kaufmann became the storyteller for traditional ways of life among 19th century Eastern European Jews. His subjects came from the ghettoes of Poland and Hungary and the slums of Silesia. His subjects were celebrated rabbis and nameless children.
As Jews scattered all over the world many no longer had contact with their rabbis. Visual images like lithographs and paintings became all the more important. The picture of a rabbi on the wall was a substitute.
After the highly respected Rabbi Yehuda Aszod died in Hungary in 1866 a scandal broke out. His followers were so intent on preserving his memory they propped him up on a chair with a book and took his photograph. The likeness was reproduced and widely circulated. That’s how sacred visual imagery was, even then.
As a Jewish portrait and genre painter, not much escaped Isidor Kaufmann.
Throughout his career, Kaufmann scoured Jewish towns and villages for folk art, customs and portraits to sketch. He captured the struggles of the Jewish people with straightforward compassion and mind-boggling detail.
Never sentimental, his depictions were true to life. They’re still being used today to recall the day-to-day existence of European Jews and Hassidic life of the era.
No painting captures Kaufmann’s moods more than his 1880s oil, “The Antiquarian.”
On Dec. 13, 2006, Sotheby’s, New York, offered the Kaufmann painting in its Important Judaica auction including property of the Jewish community of Amsterdam. The 14 3/8 inch by 18 ¾ inch work of art sold for $772,000.
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