Said to be the most prolific of all the maritime artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, Danish born Antonio Nicola Gaspar Jacobson once called West Hoboken, now Union City, home.
The life of Jacobson
Born on Nov. 2, 1850 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Jacobson was the son of a well-to-do craftsman. Jacobson's father encouraged him to join the family business, which was making musical instruments. He wanted his son to learn the trade of a violin maker.
At the age of 18, and shortly after joining the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, Jacobson's family hit financial setbacks and the Danish military drafted him into the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Instead, Jacobson left for America to seek his fortune.
First settling in New York, Jacobson joined many of the unemployed at Battery Park. According to Jacobson's bio on the website of Maestro Auctions, Inc., Battery Park was "a popular meeting place for job seekers looking for gainful employment."
However, spending time on the waterfront was a hobby that would become his career and life's passion. In his spare time, Jacobson sketched the various ships sailing in and out of the New York Harbor in lower Manhattan Island. Soon a corporate officer of the Marvin Safe Company of New York took notice of Jacobson's work and offered him a job as a resident artist decorating the doors of their bank safes.
Eventually, Jacobson's nautical paintings also caught the attention of many local sea captains, ship owners, and sailing ship lines, and they began commissioning him to paint their vessels.
Jacobson, who moved to West Hoboken in 1880, began painting entire fleets between 1876 to 1919 for some of the biggest companies of the time, such as the Old Dominion, Fall River, Clyde, and White Star (which included the Titanic) lines.
Many of his works were inscribed "A. Jacobson" and he even included his West Hoboken addresses in his inscriptions. He initially resided at 705 Palisade Ave. and then 31 Palisade Ave., which is now Washington Park.
According to Pierce Gallery, Inc., Jacobson created more than 5,900 portraits of vessels ranging from freighters and steamships to schooners and yachts.
The editors of Who Was Who in American Art claim, "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."
Jacobson died in 1921.
According to Maestro Auctions, Jacobson's rendition of the Clyde Line steamship S.S. Apache was possibly his largest piece, and it hung many years at the head office of the ship line.
The S.S. Apache was the first to establish a direct passenger service between New York and Miami.
Typical of Jacobson's intricate style, the artwork details show the ship's captain on the upper deck, while the crew sails the ship bellow. Male and female passengers are also depicted socializing on the promenade deck. The S.S. Apache has an estimated value of $30,000 to $50,000, and another piece depicting "The Laomene," dated 1883, sold for $25,000.
Today Jacobson's work is featured in museums and private collections worldwide, including the Newark Museum, New York Historical Society, Peabody Museum, Staten Island Historical Society, City of Liverpool Museum, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Two maritime artists from the same area
Last January the famed Antiques Roadshow aired its Tampa special in which experts said they discovered two James Buttersworth paintings. Buttersworth also was a Union City native who specialized in maritime paintings.
While one of the paintings was, indeed, a Buttersworth original, other representatives have said, since the show's airing, that it wasn't ironclad that a painting entitled The Dauntless was Buttersworth's. In fact, some experts believe Jacobson likely did the painting and are taking further steps to verify the artist of the work.
According to the show's Web site, the painting was still up for sale at the Skinner auction held Feb. 19. There have been no further updates.