The Charming Style and Juxtaposed Colors of Itzchak Tarkay

 In Art & Gallery News, Itzchak Tarkay

As we approach the 10th anniversary of his passing, let’s take a closer look at the world and art of Itzchak Tarkay.

Born in 1935, on the border of Yugoslavia and Hungary, the nine-year-old boy who would later go on to become one of the most influential artists of the 20th century was liberated from the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Most people cannot imagine the horrors young Itzchak was forced to witness. It is extraordinary then that he would go on to create such rapturous works of art, filling the world with color, shapes, and imagery that continue to delight art lovers and influence other artists to this day.

“Happy Hour” by Itzchak Tarkay

Art can be analyzed in terms of form or content. Tarkay was a formal artist, and while he welcomed poetry and meaning being read into his work, he was squarely focused on structure, the lucidity of composition, and the arrangement of shapes and forms. His subject matter was a repository for his painting challenges and his ideas. In addition to being a master painter, Tarkay was a serigrapher, watercolorist, and etcher. At the end of his life, in fact, he worked hard to put his stamp on the historical technique of etching. He was a satirical man who, while painfully shy, also had a great sense of humor. Tarkay was a wonderful person who mentored young artists and helped to foster their burgeoning talent.


“Never-ending Love” by Itzchak Tarkay


Picasso believed that all paintings should rhyme and have an affinity of forms that provide a sense of cohesion as you look at the art. Tarkay took this to heart. When your eyes meet his works of art, you will see numerous aspects of the paintings that are rhyming, creating patterns and symmetries in the art. For example, notice the flow of the women’s hair in his work, the shapes of the flowers, and the stripes present throughout his paintings.


“Patio Secrets” by Itzchak Tarkay


Collectors just see marvelous paintings capable of lighting up an entire room but Tarkay, forever the artist, told us that it was a challenge for him to know when his works of art were actually finished. In fact, he said that he would have to fight the impulse to take his brushes out and continue to work on his art even as they hung in exhibition for all to see on a gallery wall!


“Confiding” by Itzchak Tarkay


Tarkay became one of the most important and influential figures in 20th-century art, in part because of how he ushered in a renewed interest in figurative art. Park West first discovered Tarkay in the 1980s and eagerly helped bring his stunning work to worldwide prominence. Countless artists were influenced by Tarkay, directly and indirectly by emulating his work because of his great ability to depict the human figure in such beautiful formats and manners.


Tarkay was a master of pictorial language, the amazing ability to juxtapose color which creates a remarkable vibrancy on the canvas. A magician with color, much like Matisse, Tarkay’s intense study of color theory when he was working in the printing industry made it possible for him to instinctively employ a range of colors in his work. The artist’s color sensibility can be seen in many of his creations, in the form of warm tonality across the compositions.


“Lady in Green with Red Flowers on Green Background” by Itzchak Tarkay


The art of Itzchak Tarkay was often compared to Picasso because each mastered spatial relationships in their art, keeping a viewer’s eyes moving and flowing across the work, with the individual features of the compositions ambiguous from a spatial standpoint. Tarkay’s techniques create a space we do not experience in a realistic sense. Instead, it’s a delicate manipulation of space that’s every bit as intoxicating and accessible as anything Picasso created.


“Joanna” by Itzchak Tarkay


To have a connective tissue that runs through his work, Tarkay developed a unique style all his own. You’ll see in the closed eyes, curved hands, pursed red lips, and vibrant eyeshadow of women in his art. In fact, regarding that famous heavy use of eyeshadow, Tarkay used to quip about having a secret contract with Maybelline! Interestingly, the artist never employed these stylistic elements until a painting was completely put together from the most rigorous perspective. This helped Tarkay ensure that everything was working together with his trademark artistic integrity.

Today, Tarkay’s style continues to charm art lovers and collectors alike. To add the gorgeous art of Itzchak Tarkay to your collection, register for our exciting online auctions or contact our gallery consultants at (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 or

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