Itzchak Tarkay was born in 1935 in Subotica on the Yugoslav Hungarian border. When he was only nine years old, the Nazis sent Tarkay to Mauthausen concentration camp. After the war, he returned home and developed an interest in art. While still at school in Subotica, he won a prize for excellence in painting. In 1949 he and his family immigrated to Israel and were sent to a transit camp for new arrivals at Beer Ya’akov. Their next two years were spent on a Kibbutz.
In 1951, Tarkay received a scholarship to the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem, where he studied for a year before financial difficulties at home forced him to leave. In order to continue his scholarship, he was allowed to study under the artist Schwartzman until his mobilization to the Israeli Army. After returning to the familiar environment of Tel Aviv, Tarkay enrolled in the Avni Institute of Art, where he graduated in 1956. His teachers there included painters Moshe Mokady, Marcel Janko, Yehezkel Streichman and Avigdor Stematsky.
Tarkay has since exhibited extensively both in Israel and abroad, and his works can be found in many public and private collections. He passed away June 3, 2012, in Detroit, Michigan, while on an exhibition tour.