Isidor Kaufmann was born in Arad, Hungary, part of the Austro Hungarian Empire in 1853. He worked as a bank clerk until his talent as an artist was discovered by Count Andrassy at the age of twenty-one. Andrassy was a generous patron who sponsored Kaufmann, enabling him to study at the Budapest Drawing School 1875-6; he subsequently studied painting at the Vienna Academy under Josef Trenkwald (1824-1897).
Kaufmann settled in Vienna, a wealthy city, capital of an Empire, he painted genre subjects, scenes of everyday life and historical subjects for which he found a ready market. In these works his quality of detail and studies as a draughtsman are apparent in the exceptional observation.
In the 1890’s he turned towards more specifically Jewish subjects, he travelled to Galica, Silesia, Moravia and Poland sketching life in the Jewish ghettoes, returning to his studio in Vienna to produce his highly finished panel paintings. In later years he was to portray rabbis and religious elders from the communities in the Eastern parts of the empire, figures with whom he became intrigued and in whose portrayals he would capture a spirituality and dignity.
Kaufmann exhibited widely throughout Europe; in 1897 he was awarded a medal in Munich, and received further awards in Berlin 1899 and in Paris at the Exposition Universalle in 1900.
He died a successful and renowned artist in Vienna in 1921.
His works can be found in museums in: London, Tate Britain and Vienna.