ILLINOIS HISTORICAL ART PROJECT
WILLIAM JACOBS was born in Chicago on July 31, 1897, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and at Hull House. His outstanding teachers were Herman Sachs and Enella Benedict. Aside from Chicago, he has painted in Dayton, Ohio. His work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Woman's Aid, the Jewish Women's Art Club and various Chicago galleries, and he has had several one-artist exhibitions in Chicago galleries and cultural centers. He has been awarded the Artists' Guild $50.00 prize in design at the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been written about in various Chicago newspapers, the Hull House Year Book and The Arts of New York. Among the writers who have commented on his work are Lena McCauley, Sterling North, Meyer Levin, Inez Cunningham and J. Z. Jacobson.
I shall try to answer the questions which have been sent to me in order to help me make a statement for inclusion in "Art of Today- Chicago, 1933." First of all, as to subject matter, I would say that it is important in my art. I think a group of people doing a folk dance, especially if the colors are bright, is much more inspiring than just any group of people walking down the street. Now as to form- it and color are major elements in my art. I choose the more interesting subject matter only because it makes form more vivid to me. Then as to color: I use color in order to effect dramatic interplay and to give heightened expression to form. I do abstractions occasionally. The abstract strengthens one's art and helps develop one's creative faculty. Generally I consider my art a purely personal expression; occasionally I do not. I consider it, also, a contribution to society. I feel that Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco, Giotto, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Daumier, Picasso and Lautrec have influenced my work. I consider my work an expression of the age. I am painting industrial subjects and find them very interesting. I do not feel that my work is peculiarly American. How can one say that his art is peculiarly American, when there are no American art traditions? America's art is influenced by Europe's. Of course, if one takes into consideration subject matter, then one might say that it is possible for one's art to be peculiar to America. The skyscraper does belong distinctively to America. I have tried to paint the spirit of it. It is fascinating. I have painted many street scenes in Chicago, particularly the Maxwell Street market. Therefore, I suppose, it might be said that my work is peculiarly Chicagoan. I believe that art should be universal in spirit, and therefore I do not consider my work an expression of the spirit of any national, racial, religious, political, social or economic group, body, background or attitude.