A reverse in his family's fortune, and compulsory military service forced Danish painter Antonio Jacobsen to head to the United States. He had been born into a family of violin makers, and was himself an accomplished string player with music forming a central figure throughout his life. While studying at Copenhagen's Royal Academy however, his family's financial circumstances forced him to withdraw, and when his eighteenth birthday approached he knew he would be required to join the Danish military. He avoided this by immigrating to New York.
He arrived in the early 1870s and was spending his time seeking work and alternately painting the ships that passed by Battery Park. It was here that he was discovered by a representative of the Marvin Safe Company who put him to work decorating their safes.
He was soon being offered commission work from sea captains and ship owners who had admired his decorative work, and Jacobsen would eventually become a portrait painter for many major steamship lines. The White Star Line, the Old Dominion Line the Red Star Line and many others would hire him to paint formal portraits of all, or many, of the ships in their fleets.
When he was twenty eight he married and the couple lived in New York City, where they soon had a family. By 1880 Jacobsen's professional success allowed them to purchase a home in New Jersey, which was soon a popular destination for fellow maritime painters and many seafarers who had become acquainted with Jacobsen and his fellow artists.
During his career Jacobsen was able to secure an income significantly larger than many other professionals of the era, but as time passed and as lithography was forcing many painters into lives as commercial artists, Jacobsen turned away from commission work and began to paint creative scenes of maritime activity, including shipwrecks, races and ocean scenes.
Today his work is in many major maritime museum collections including the Peabody Museum and the Mariners Museum in Newport News, Virginia.