Austrian / Hungarian, (1853-1921)
Portrait of a Banker
oil on panel
signed lower right "Isidor Kaufmann," inscribed on the reverse "6 Juni 1894"

  • Notes: A copy of a letter from Daphne Alazraki Fine Art discussing the work accompanies the lot.

    Isidor Kaufmann is best known as a painter of Jewish themes and considered by many as the greatest Jewish painter of the 19th century. He was born to Hungarian Jewish parents in Arad, Kingdom of Hungary (present day Romania). He worked as a bank clerk until at age twenty-one when he was discovered by a local patron and was finally able to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist.

    After an initial rejection from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Kaufmann studied under portrait artist Joseph Matthaus Aigner. He then attended the Malerschule of the Vienna Academy and became a private pupil of artist Josef Trenkwald.

    Kaufmann moved to Vienna, a wealthy, capital city, and painted genre scenes and historical subjects. In Vienna, wealthy patrons provided a ready market for his work. In the 1890s he traveled to Galica, Silesia, Moravia and Poland sketching in shtetls or villages, synagogues, and scenes of everyday life of the Jewish communities he encountered. Back in his studio in Vienna he worked diligently to turn his sketches into highly detailed finished compositions.

    By contrast in Vienna, he also painted Jewish society portraits and scenes of wealthy, urban Jewish life. He painted wealthy, metropolitan patrons such as bankers and lawyers, as depicted in the present lot. Biographer G. Tobias Natter commented, "…it seems, and this is remarkable – that Kaufmann never experienced the tensions between these two worlds strongly enough to feel impelled to decide from one side or the other. In the end, what Kaufmann wanted to create from the wealth of impressions was a true picture of the greatest possible purity. He did not see his paintings as souvenirs from a dying world but rather as distillations of its spiritual values."

    In this present lot, Kaufmann created a detailed portrait of a respected member of Viennese society. The banker meets the eyes of the viewer with a sincere expression of interest. In his hand, he holds a document as if we have just walked into his office and interrupted him mid-task. The sitter is very well dressed, and his neat, antique desk indicates a wealthy, fashionable man of society. The landscape painting hanging above his desk contrasts the apparent importance of the banker's day-to-day tasks. Expertly executed, Kaufmann's skill as a portraist is captured in every fold and texture of the figure's attire and in the delicate lines of his hands and face.

    Kaufmann earned recognition from many wealthy patrons, most notably Emperor Franz Josef. He was awarded honors from the German Emperor and the Russian Czar. Emperor Franz Josef purchased Kaufmann's most celebrated work The Rabbi's Visit currently in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

    Today paintings by Kaufmann are on view at the Tate Gallery in London, The Jewish Museum in New York City, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
    Framed dimensions: 24 3/4 x 20 3/4 x 2 5/8 inches

    Tags: European, oil painting, listed artist, Jewish, Judaica, portrait, realist / realism, Jerusalem
  • Provenance: Daphne Alazraki Fine Art, New York, New York, May 18, 2007; Private Collection, New York.
  • Dimensions: 19 x 14 1/2 inches
  • Artist Name: ISIDOR KAUFMANN
  • Medium: oil on panel
  • Condition: A few very minor dots of restoration apparent under UV. UV photos available upon request. Three white dots above the signature, possibly surface dirt. Overall very good condition. In a period frame.

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by Shannon's
October 28, 2021 6:00 PM EDT
Milford, CT, US

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