A Chicago native, William Jacobs was born on July 31,1897. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and at Hull House. His teachers were Herman Sachs and Enella Benedict. During the early 1930s, Jacobs painted in Dayton, Ohio, and Chicago. His works were exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Woman’s Aid and the Jewish Women’s Art Club. He was awarded the Artists’ Guild prize in design from the Art Institute of Chicago. As one of the WPA artists during the Depression, he participated in the painting of murals in the corridors of Chicago’s Spaulding High School. In the book Art of Today: Chicago, 1933 (written by J.Z. Jacobson and published by L.M. Stein), Jacobs reveals how he was influenced by Expressionism, his interest in the typical Depression-era industrial scenes and his cosmopolitan inclination:
Generally I consider my art a purely personal expression; occasionally I don’t. I consider it, also, a contribution to society. … I consider my work an expression of the age. I am painting industrial subjects and find them very interesting. … 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.
Jacobs died in Chicago in March of 1973.