Born in Yugoslavia in 1935, Izchak Tarkay was sent to the Mathausen concentration camp by the Nazis when he was only nine years old. His art today can be justifiably compared to an "enchanted land that abounds in poetry and human warmth", which is a tribute to one human spirit's quest for peace and beauty.
After the war, his life was again disrupted when his family emigrated to Israel in 1949. The young Tarkay, who lived on a kibbutz, still managed to secure an academic training in art that was long and intense. At the age of seventeen, he won a scholarship to the Bezadel Academy of Art in Jerusalem where he studied for five years. Following his military service, he was accepted to the Arni Institute of Art at Tel Aviv, and at the age of twenty-six, he held his first exhibition. His early works were typical of the abstract style then in vogue, and his show was met with a mixed response. Tarkay, deeply disillusioned and with his confidence shattered, made the dramatic decision to abandon painting.
During this fifteen-year hiatus, the desire to paint and create never left. Tarkay returned to painting, studying under the master Rosentalis. It was under Rosentalis' instruction that Tarkay's work underwent dramatic changes in style, from abstract to figurative. The freshness of his new paintings gained him enough recognition so that within a short period he was participating in group and solo exhibitions. Successful shows followed in Europe and America, and within a few years, Tarkay achieved the status he enjoys today.
The figures Tarkay paints are taken directly from life although the artist manipulates and evolves them, eventually creating characters of his own. They tend to be faceless and often their poses seem theatrical and exaggerated. To Tarkay, the figures are characters in a play, and therefore the setting too is important and fulfills a special function.
The colors Tarkay uses are always strong yet harmonious. His approach is fearless yet sensitive. This is the paradox and appeal of his work. From somewhere beneath the joyous expression of color, Tarkay touches and delivers the souls of his subjects.
In June, 2012, Tarkay passed away while visiting Detroit as a featured guest at an art event.