Isaak was born in 1883 in Sofievka, Ukraine. From early on in his childhood he demonstrated a talent for painting, and he studied at the art institute of Odessa from 1896 to 1902. From Odessa, Brodski moved to St. Petersburg, where he would become one of the most famous artists of social realism. In St. Petersburg, Brodski studied under Ilya Repin at the Academy of Art. This tutorship greatly influenced Brodski's work, including his style. The political climate of St. Petersburg was very charged, and Brodski was right in the middle of the action. He participated in the strikes during the revolutions of 1905-1907, and later surrounding the revolution of 1917 did portraits of many of the Bolshevik leaders. Of this he said "To depict this revolutionary age and its great figures is the duty of every artist."