Born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1850 to a family of violin makers, Jacobsen emigrated to the United States in 1871. By 1880, he was living in West Hoboken, New Jersey, on the Palisades above the "City of Ships". It was here that he established himself as a successful ship portraitist.
Jacobsen is recognized as the American artist who most successfully recorded the important transitional era of sailing vessels as they evolved from sail to steam. This in large part was due to the timely placement of his studio at the mouth of the New York Harbor.
Paintings by Antonio Jacobsen display a meticulous and traditional nature underlined by strict attention to detail. Absolute accuracy in rigging, wind direction and specific vessel details contribute to Jacobsen's paintings' reputation as the best of their genre. Any marine collection of note features the work of this pivotal artist.