Jakob Nussbaum was born in the village of Rhina in Upper Hesse in 1873. His parents ran a brandy distillery and a matzot bakery. In 1883, the family moved to Frankfurt after his father lost his fortune through a poor investment. There Jakob Nussbaum initially began commercial training at a colonial goods store, but his real interest was art and he was able to persuade his parents to let him study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
University years and discovery of plein air painting
In 1893, Jakob Nussbaum attended the private school of Hungarian painter Simon Hollòsy in order to prepare for admission to the art academy. It was through Hollòsy that he discovered impressionism. He established ties to Berlin gallery owners Bruno and Paul Cassirer, who represented famous French impressionists, and in early 1900, they presented Nussbaum’s work at a group exhibition. While in Berlin, Nussbaum met Max Liebermann, who became a friend and who had a major influence on his further artistic career. Nussbaum became a champion of impressionism when he returned to Frankfurt.
Jakob Nussbaum (1873–1936), Bank of the Main with a View of the Old Bridge, 1903, oil on canvas
Jakob Nussbaum (1873–1936), View of Schaumainkai from the Studio 1922, oil on canvas
Jakob Nussbaum (1873–1936), Tiberias, mosque, 1925, drypoint etching, from the portfolio "Ten Etchings of Landscapes in Palestine"
Jakob Nussbaum (1873–1936), Lisbon on the Tagus River, 1912, lithograph, from the portfolio "Jakob Nussbaum: Thirty Lithographs, 1912"
Return to Frankfurt and professional success
In 1903, Nussbaum painted Bank of the Main with a View of the Old Bridge, a street scene that portrays the charming atmosphere on the banks of Frankfurt’s Main River as a natural experience. In this work Nussbaum developed an artistic language that made him famous. In 1904, he became a member of the Berlin Secession and in 1907/08, he joined the Frankfurt-Cronberger-Künstlerbund, the first Frankfurt Secession. His professional success made it possible for him to take numerous journeys in the following years. He visited Tunisia, Tenerife, and Madeira and published travel reports in publications such as the Frankfurter Zeitung.
First World War and private life
In December 1914, Jakob Nussbaum was drafted as a soldier in the First World War and in 1915, he was sent to the Western Front. One year later he was stationed in France as a military painter. During this time, he created numerous images of cities and landscapes. While on home leave, he married Marie Grünbaum, with whom he had three children. He portrayed his family in many images.
Jakob Nussbaum in a letter to his friend Dr. Alfred Oppenheimer, March 13, 1934
"We’ve long stopped being the people we were in Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse."
Departure and new beginnings
In 1932, Nussbaum was appointed art professor at the Städel Art School and was provided with a master’s studio in the Liebieghaus. When the Nazis took power the following year, they began to systematically discriminate against Jews and strip them of their rights. On April 15, Nussbaum was dismissed from his position at the Städel Art School and lost his studio as well. He decided to immigrate to the British Mandate of Palestine and on October 9, 1933, traveled with his family to Marseille, where he boarded a ship for Haifa. He settled down with his family at the Sea of Galilee.
Before Nussbaum left Germany in 1933, he received this album from more than 60 friends from the Frankfurt cultural scene. They all express the best wishes for the emigration to the former British Mandate Palestine in personal words, drawings or photographs.
One of Nussbaum's friends was the artist Heinrich Gottselig. Under a photograph of his self-portrait, he writes: 'With the wish that you may find your home in the old uncharted territory.' The painting is kept in our collection on permanent loan.
Nussbaum’s immigration to the British Mandate of Palestine caused a radical break in his private and professional life. His health declined rapidly and he had few opportunities for artistic development. He spent less and less time drawing and painting. On December 14, 1936, he was taken to a clinic and died of an incurable illness five days later.