Professor John "Jake" Jacobus September 15, 1927 to July 10, 2017

Hanover, N.H. — John Maxwell “Jake” Jacobus, a world-renowned art historian, author, professor, Guggenheim Fellow, world traveler, music aficionado, father and grandfather, passed away on Monday, July 10, 2017. He was 89 years old. 

Born on Sept. 15, 1927, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to Louise Rayland and John Jacobus Sr., Jake grew up in a civically engaged and academic household, developing a deep love for travel, music, art and history.

Following his honorable discharge from the Merchant Marine in 1947, Jake completed an undergraduate degree from Hamilton College in 1952 and married Marion Townsend in that same year. His studies continued at Yale as a PhD candidate, where he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1954, subsequently receiving his PhD in Art History from Yale University in 1956. 

His formal studies complete, Jake immediately began a prolific and consequential academic career, teaching at Princeton University, the University of California Berkeley, Smith College, Indiana University, and ultimately at Dartmouth College as the Leon E. Williams Professor of Art History, a position he cherished because of the extraordinary nature of his colleagues, from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. 

Over the course of his career, Jake made substantial and important contributions to the academic field of art history and architecture, publishing monographs on Philip Johnson in 1962 and Henri Matisse in 1972, as well as a book entitled Twentieth-Century Architecture: The Middle Years 1940-65 in 1966. He will perhaps be best known for his textbook, Modern Art, written with close friend and colleague Sam Hunter in 1976, which went on to be republished three times and was used extensively in college and university courses across the world for over 20 years.

Jake was a devoted music lover and world traveler, spending extensive time traveling, photographing and studying Europe, South Asia, China and Japan, and attending performances in many of the world’s most important and noteworthy concert halls. He will forever be remembered by his family and friends for his kindness, inquisitiveness, the breadth of his experience and study, his passion for opera, and his love for long, intellectually rigorous conversation, traits he had until his passing. He is survived by his daughter Jacqueline Jacobus, son-in-law Edward Carroll, and grandsons Christopher and Daniel Carroll, all of Hanover, N.H. He died as he lived, reading about the world, discussing history, and listening to the music he loved.

A gathering in celebration of his life will be held on September 24, 2017, at the Dartmouth Outing Club from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. For more information about the event, or for information about making a donation in Jake’s memory, please email