Itzhak Tarkay was born in 1935 in Subotica on the Yugoslav-Hungarian border. Towards the end of World War II, Tarkay was sent with his family to the Mathausen concentration camp by the Nazis. Tarkay was only nine years old at this time. His family survived and returned home after the war and Itahak developed a keen interest in art. He won a prize for excellence in painting while still in school in Subotica.
In 1949 Tarkay and his family immigrated to Israel and were sent to the transit camp for new arrivals at Beer Yaakov. The next two years were spent in a Kibbutz. In 1951 Tarkay received a scholarship to the Bezalel Art Academy where he studied for one year before he had to leave due to difficult financial circumstances at home. To continue his scholarship, Tarkay was allowed to study under the artist Schwarzman and was mentored by other important Israeli artists of the time such as Mokady, Janko, Streichman and Stematsky until his mobilization in the Israeli army.
After his service term ended, Tarkay returned to his familiar environment in Tel Aviv and enrolled in the Avni Institute of Art, which he complete in 1956.
Tarkay achieved recognition as a leading representative of a new generation of figurative artists. The inspiration for his work lies with French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, particularly the color sophistication of Matisse and the drawing style of Toulouse-Lautrec. He drew upon the history of art to create many of his compositions, designing a kind of visual poetry from the aura of his cafes and intimate settings.
There is an ancient mystery in the work of Tarkay that must be discovered for oneself. This is what Tarkay’s paintings achieve. Tarkay’s fertile female form is a timeless enigma. The poses that Tarkay’s figures are classical. The quality of his line is organic, the quality of his woman, his art, is magic.
After exhibiting both in Israel and abroad, Tarkay received recognition at the International Artexpo in 1986 and 1987 for works in several forms of media, including oil, acrylic and watercolor.
Today, Tarkay is considered one the the most influential artists of the early 21st century and has inspired dozens of artists through the world with his contemplative depiction of the female figure.