Rudolf Jacobi was born in Mühlhausen, Germany. He attended the Royal Academy in Berlin, where he exhibited with and became a member of the Berlin Secession, an art association founded in 1898. Jacobi married fellow painter Anna Annot in 1921, and together they founded the Annot School of Painting. In 1933, the school was closed after Jacobi and Annot refused to dismiss Jewish students from the school on Nazi orders. The following year they immigrated to New York and reopened the Annot School in Rockefeller Center. Jacobi and Annot spent the 1930s and 1940s in New York and in Gloucester, Massachusetts during the summers. Jacobi exhibited widely during this period, at the Corcoran Gallery biennials, the Carnegie Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and abroad. They eventually returned to Germany, where Jacobi died in 1972 at the age of eighty-three.