Yitzhak Frenkel was born in 1899 in Odessa, Ukraine, Russian Empire. He was a great-grandson of the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. In 1917, he studied under Aleksandra Ekster at the Fine Arts Academy in Odessa. Frenkel immigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1919 as part of the first wave of settlers of the Third Aliyah.
He died in Tel Aviv in 1981 and was buried in Safed.
In 1920, he established the artists' cooperative in Jaffa and an artists' studio in Herzliya. Later that year, he traveled to Paris where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière at the studios of the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and painter Henri Matisse. He was one of the leading Jewish artists of École de Paris. Frenkel returned to Palestine in 1925 and opened the Histadrut Art School in Tel Aviv. His students included Shimshon Holzman, Mordechai Levanon, David Hendler, Joseph Kossonogi, and Siona Tagger. He was a mentor to Bezalel students Avigdor Stematsky, Yehezkel Streichman, Moshe Castel, and Arie Aroch.
Frenkel's style was closer to the abstract painting to which he was exposed in Paris than the orientalism that was popular in Palestine at that time. In 1934, he settled in Safed. There he painted the ancient synagogues, narrow lanes, local inhabitants and surrounding countryside. In 1973, his house reopened as a museum showcasing his work. In July 1978, Frenkel had a one-man show at the Orangerie in Paris.
Awards and commemoration
- 1950: Venice Biennale
- 1924: Salon des Indépendants, Paris
- Israel Museum, Jerusalem
- Barzel, Amnon. Isaac Alexander Frenel. Jerusalem: Massada Press, 1974.
- Gumprecht-Linke, S. Frenel: École de Paris. Amsterdam: Israel Galerie Linka, 1977.