Painter of Plein-air Landscapes, Portraits & Figurative Works


Pasatiempo, December 14, 2001

“The View from Wild Dog Road” by Lynn Cline, The New Mexican

The home and studio of Santa Fe painter Leslie Jakobovits are filled with vibrant landscapes and streetscapes - scenes from Israel, Costa Rica, New York, Vermont, Texas, New Mexico and other places he has lived.

Better than any map, these paintings indicate just how extensively the painter has traveled.

“Wherever I wound up living, I wound up painting a series,” said Jakobovits, who moved to Santa Fe a little more than a year ago with his wife after living four and a half years in Albuquerque.

“A series is like a book or an essay in the sense that if a place like New Mexico in a time like winter is very moving, it would be hard to put it all into one work.”

Jakobovits, who uses oil and gouache, has spent the last year painting places in northern New Mexico, from the Pecos National Monument to the Galisteo Basin and Santa Fe.

Painting on-site as well as in his studio, Jakobovits has created a new series of work, The Seasons of Santa Fe, exhibited in his first solo show in Santa Fe. The show opens with an artist’s reception from 5 to 7 pm today, December 14 at Giacobbe-Fritz Fine Art.

Jakobovits, who grew up in New York City, began to paint when he was 15, primarily because he had an extraordinarily inspirational art teacher at the Roosevelt School, a boarding school he attended in Stamford, CT.

“I was very fortunate to have one of the greatest art teachers, Arthur Bressler, and he turned me on to art,” Jakobovits said, smiling at the memory.

Bressler, who had been a student of German painters Max Beckmann and George Grosz, encouraged his students to trust themselves with their art.

“He gave me a project that lasted my whole life,” Jakobovits said.

After graduating from the Roosevelt School, Jakobovits studied painting and drawing at the Art Students League of New York while earning enough money to travel abroad.

“I wanted to see the museums in Europe and visit Hungary, where my family is from,” he said. After trekking through Europe, he spent time in North Africa, Egypt and Israel and then lived in Sweden for a year.  Wherever he was, he painted, focusing on landscapes as well as the human figure.

Upon returning to the United States, Jakobovits studied art and history, then went on to earn a master of fine arts degree from Washington State University. After graduating, he journeyed to India, Asia and the Far East to study oriental painting and sculpture.

Eventually Jakobovits became a stockbroker in order to earn a living, and he is now retired. But he never abandoned his art.

“It’s been the handrail through my life, to steady me and to keep me from going crazy,” he said.

Like the impressionist painters, Jakobovits searches within for inspiration when working on a painting.

I am not interested in re-creating landscape like a photo,” he said. “I’m interested in reinterpreting it in a personal way.”


View from Wild Dog Road 32 x 50

As a plein air painter, Jakobovits travels around the globe, painting his landscapes on-site using gouache, which dries quickly and is easy to carry. The medium is similar to watercolor, but is opaque with heavier qualities that better suit the kind of painting he does, he said.

Often, the gouache paintings inspire the artist to create larger oil paintings in his studio.

Jakobovits has worked hard to develop his own style. His influences include the Fauves and the German Expressionists, as well as Victor Higgins and other painters of the Santa Fe and Taos art colonies. But over the years, he has focused on developing a distinctive blend of brilliant colors and harmonious lines. “The challenge is to still be good and reinterpret the universe that’s been depicted a lot,” he said. “I don’t see, from my background in art history, anyone who has painted the area the way I see it.”

His oil painting The Day Before Winter depicts the tree-lined intersection of Acequia Madre and San Antonio streets with bold shades of green, yellow, magenta, blue and other rich tones.

“You can see the trees here are almost standing on tiptoe,” he said, pointing to the painting’s right side. “And these trees here are saying, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m alive,’” he said, pointing to the left side of the canvas. “It’s like music. I’m trying to channel the energy I feel being here into the picture.”

That same energy resonates in View from Wild Dog Road, an oil painting of mountain and sky that bursts with brilliant color.

Jakobovits holds a deep respect for the many moods of nature. His paintings pay tribute to mountains and forests as well as to the natural world that co-exists with cities - trees that stand beneath Houston skyscrapers and bridges, twinkling with night lights, that span a New York Harbor.

Each of the artist’s paintings captures a feeling that is not unlike the emotions we experience during nature’s changing seasons.

Day Before Winter 34 x 48

Dawn in Pecos Valley 36 x 48

Dawn in Pecos Valley carries a totally different mood than The Day Before Winter. “Dawn in Pecos Valley is like Ravel’s music,” he said. “I’m trying to create a certain mood. If the paintings are successful, each should have a different mood.”

Jakobovits has lived in may places during his life. But he thinks he’ll stay put in Santa Fe.

“I love moody skies,” he said. “There’s so much going on here. However, sometimes I can’t go outside in the middle of the day. The sky is so blue that I find it boring.”

He waits instead for the sunrise or the sunset, or perhaps a group of clouds that add drama to the scene. Or, he travels to some far-flung spot like Peru. Wherever he is in the world, he almost always discovers something that sparks his creativity.

“It’s like Cezanne said, ‘Step in any direction and you’ve got another painting,’” he said.

Contact Leslie at: ljakobovits@gmail.com