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 Antonio Nicolo Gasparo Jacobsen  (1850 - 1921)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey / Denmark      Known for: ship portrait and other marine painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Antonio Jacobsen
Facts/Data
Birth
1850 (Copenhagen, Denmark)
 
Death
1921 (West Hoboken, New Jersey)

Lived/Active
New York/New Jersey / Denmark

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ship portrait and other marine painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Antonio Jacobsen became one of America's best known and most prolific painters of marine subjects.  From 1880, he lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, having studied at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen.

He emigrated to New York in 1871 to avoid serving in the Franco-Prussian War, and got a job decorating safes.  At that time, he began painting portraits of the vessels of the Old Dominion Steamship Line, creating about 6000 ship portraits in the New York Harbor between 1876 and 1919.

Later in his life, his daughter Helen painted the skies and water of his pictures, and his son Carl even painted some of the ships credited to Jacobsen.

Source:
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jacobsen painted neither from life nor fancy.  If he didn’t know the vessel from previous assignments, he first sketched it from life.  His son, Alphonso T. Jacobsen, recalled chasing after his father down a wet, sandy beach as he got closer to a certain square rigger. “Isn’t she pretty?  Just look at that figurehead nodding to her reflection in the water…” the father remarked to his son.  After making his notes, he hurried back to the studio to complete a portrait of the ship because the captain was about to leave on the tide that evening.  He recorded all of the detail required in sketch books – actually sketched workbooks with prenumbered pages.  He kept some 80 or more books in a large wooden box which can be dated from 1879 to 1918.  The storage box came in handy when he received repeat orders.  He then rummaged in the workbooks for the appropriate sketches and went to work.  Jacobsen had a peculiar method of using a page.  Rather than reducing the sketch to the size of the paper, he began drawing the stern to a size of his liking, and then continued the midships and prow on the next page.  Yet he never wasted an inch of space.

Sources:
Paragraphs included in 20x30 framed copies of A Jacobsen sketches for the Iranian, painted in 1896.

Information provided by Gretchen Potter

Biography from Rehs Galleries, Inc.:
Antonio Jacobsen, America's folk art hero recognized for his unsurpassed contributions to America's maritime history, recorded domestic and international ships as they passed through the age of sail to steam. He was a prolific painter and throughout his life painted an estimated 6000 paintings.

Jacobsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 2 November 1850, where, for generations his family had been violin makers. His father encouraged him to practice a similar craft. At an early age he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Design in Copenhagen, however, reversed family fortunes forced him to withdraw. At the age 18 it was compulsory for him to join the Danish military forces, but he decided instead, to sail for America.

He left his family behind and arrived in New York in the early 1870's. Like many other immigrants, he went to New York City's Battery Park looking for work. He passed his days sketching the ships that sailed in and out of the harbor. Not before long a representative from Marvin Safe Company noticed his drawings and offered him a job decorating safes.

His ability as an artist was further recognized as he began to receive commissions from sea captains and ship owners and eventually Steamship companies, to record their entire fleet. The Old Dominion Line, The Fall River Line and The White Star Line are some of the steamship companies that commissioned him to paint portraits of all the ship in their respective fleets. In addition, the Clyde Line, the Black Ball Line and the Mallory Line, the Anchor Line and Red Star Lines also sought his services.

The notoriety that Jacobsen received from all these commissions helped establish him as the foremost chronicler of American shipping in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1878, he married Mary Melania Schmidt. The couple established residence, combining their working and living space, in New York City at 257 Eight Ave. Three children were born to the couple: Carl Ferdinand, Helen and Alphonse. Both of Jacobsen's sons were competent painters. In 1880, with Jacobsen's increasing prosperity, the couple was able to move to a beautiful house in Hoboken, New Jersey. This home became a mecca for seafarers and artists as well. On Sundays, Jacobsen would arrange concerts, at his house, of him and his friends playing chamber music or string quartets. Several of the artists that visited include Fred Pansing (well-known ship painter at the time), James Buttersworth (painter of yacht pictures), F. Bishop (marine artist from New Haven), and Frederick Cozzens (Staten Island artist, who specialized in harbor scenes).

Jacobsen's work was sought after in his day, and if he was short of funds, he had no trouble finding commissions. At a time when a certified public accountant was earning forty or fifty dollars a week, Jacobsen earned $150 to $200 with little effort. When lithographs became popular, however, orders for Jacobsen's paintings dwindled and he refused any attempt to commercialize his paintings.

As the years passed, Jacobsen's style became more progressive; he depended less on commissions and more on his own creativity. His rigid style softened and he painted imaginative marine works including racing scenes, shipwrecks and some ocean views.

Works by Jacobsen can be seen in most major collections of maritime art including the: Peabody Museum, Salem, MA.; The Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA.; Seaman's Bank for Savings, etc.Reference: Antonio Jacobsen, Marine Artist, Staten Island Historian XXII #2, April ? June 1961, pp. 9 ?12.

Biography from Roger King Fine Art, A - G:
Antonio Jacobsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, to a family of violin makers.  He was an accomplished string player and throughout his life music was to remain an avocation.

He studied at Copenhagen's Royal Academy, and emigrated to the the United States in 1871.  He frequented the harbor around Battery Park, sketching, until he was hired by the Marvin Safe Company to decorate safes.  Subsequently he received commissions from sea captains, ship owners, and steamship companies.

The Old Dominion Line, the Fall River Line, and the White Star Line hired him to paint visual records of their entire fleets; he also received commissions from the Clyde, Black Ball, Mallory, Anchor, and the Red Star Lines.

Jacobsen's style is often, though not exclusively, characterized by a flattened perspective.  He had a complete understanding of ships and achieved great accuracy of detail in his works.

In 1878 Jacobsen married; he remained in New York City until 1880, when he moved to Hoboken, New Jersey.  His home became a gathering place for marine artists including James Bard, Fred Cozzens, Fred Pansing, James Buttersworth, Worden Wood, Albert Bishop, and Ward Stanton.

Jacobsen was very successful for many years, though he suffered a decline in finances toward the end of his life.  His daughter Helen and son Carl (who became a painter in his own right) assisted in painting the skies and water on some of their father's later canvases.  When lithographs became a popular form of disseminating artwork to the general public, Jacobsen resisted attempts to capitalize on his work by reproducing it in print form.

He was said to have painted about 6,000 ship portraits during his career, often creating multiple versions of a vessel.  His works stand as both artistic and historic documentation of international ships during the transition from the age of sail to the age of steam.

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
Antonio Jacobsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1850.  After having studied realism at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, he moved to America to avoid being drafted into the Franco-Prussian War (1871).

He lived in New York City as a safe decorator and within a few years he began painting portraits of ships that were in the Old Dominion Steamship Line.  Between 1876-1919 the prolific painter executed more than 5900 portraits of vessels ranging from freighters, steamships, sailing vessel, schooners and yachts.

The editors of Who Was Who in American Art (volume 2, p. 1707) claims: “In his later life, his daughter, Helen, helped paint the sky and water of his pictures.  His son Carl even painted some of his own ship portraits.”

In 1880, Jacobsen moved to West Hoboken, New Jersey, where he remained for the rest of his life.  A majority of his canvases are signed A. Jacobsen or Antonio Jacobsen with one of his West Hoboken addresses below the signature.  He died in West Hoboken in 1921.

Jacobsen’s work is many museums throughout the U.S. including the Mariner’s Museum, Newport News, VA; Mystic Seaport Museum (CT); Peabody Museum, Salem (MA); New York Historical Society (NY); Fall River Marine Museum (MA); Louisiana State Museum (LA) and the Shelburne Museum (VA).


Sources:
Smith Gallery, Catalogue Raisonne (1984);
Muller, Paintings and Drawings at the Shelburne Museum (1983);
Falk, Who Was Who in American Art (vol. ii, p. 1707).

Submitted by historian Patricia Jobe Pierce

Biography from The Caldwell Gallery:
Antonio Jacobsen was a marine painter who studied at the Royal Academy of Copenhagen and is represented in every large marine museum in the U.S. and Europe. Jacobsen came to New York City in 1871 and made money by decorating the doors of bank safes.  He began painting portraits of vessels in the “Old Dominion Steamship Line”.  Jacobsen painted about 6,000 steamships in the NYC harbor between 1876-1919.

Many of Jacobsen’s patrons were ship masters or boat owners in search of an accurately detailed record of their vessel.  Jacobsen made detailed sketches in pencil, which he documented in catalogued notebooks before beginning his painting.

Jacobsen died in 1921.

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