His life and works

May 20, 2010

Martin Jacoby, as he was originally called, was born during the early days of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm Ist and Chancellor Bismarck in Berlin on August 31 1883 , last of the six children of Hermann Jacoby and Rosalia Levinson, namely Paul, Hans, Arthur, Pauline and Siegfried.

Photo H.& R.Jacoby

Hermann Jacoby had earlier on in his life lived in California where he reportedly occupied the position of Postmaster in the days of the stagecoaches. Martin attended school in Berlin until the age of 15 when he dropped out voluntarily, rebelling against his family. His brothers, more respectful of established society went on to set up their own businesses, in particular Arthur who created a shoe manufacture which was later to form part of the reputed international Bally company.

Eventually Martin found his way back to school, graduated and started to learn woodwork before integrating the Kunstschule in Berlin ca.1902. There he not only witnessed the birth of Expressionism in 1905 but sided with several of the “Die Brücke” artists (Franz Marc, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Jawlenski), later to find an extension in the “Blauer Reiter” artistic group (Kirchner, Nolde, Van Dongen) and  the “Neue Sachlichkeit”. Next he moved to Paris to the Académie des Beaux Arts to complete his studies and also spent some time in Rome before returning to Berlin and starting his career as a fully-fledged architect and decorator.

 This is the entrance of the building where Martin Jacoby-Boy lived at W50 – Regensbürger Strasse 3; 4ter stock.

By then the German art scene had exploded and the years from 1905 onwards, when the Expressionist concept started to be clarified until the outbreak of World War I, were among the richest in European artistic history.

In 1906, Martin Jacoby who had completed his studies, volunteered for military service and was incorporated into the 3rd Train Batallion in the 2nd Company.

Jacoby-Boy is in the center with the point helmet.

In 1912, Martin Jacoby-Boy joined the Deutscher Werkbund, a spearheading association which had spinned off the Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt Colony sponsored by  Ernst Ludwig Duke of Hesse, the former having impersonated the convergence between industry and the arts at a moment when the artistic world was glowing with new concepts, partially stemming from Japan after the Meiji era opening and called Japonisme, before being reinterpreted by the Europeans and in particular in England under the Arts and Crafts Movement or the City Garden Movement and then turning into the reputed Art Nouveau (in France) or Jugendstil (in the Germanic countries) before becoming the Sezessionstil. Membership of this movement included in particular Bruno Taut, Hermann Muthesius, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius.

Max Reinhardt who started to run the Deutsches Theater in Berlin in 1905, later called on Martin Jacoby to work with Ernst Lubitsch and create some of the decors which would contribute to the director’s innovative reputation. There he also met Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.

It was at this time that Martin Jacoby-Boy who, until then had been working as an architect, started graphic work and created one of the first advertising agencies in Germany, namely

Lipropa-Lichtbildpropaganda mbH, then Berlin W50 .

There he worked for such large groups as Rosenthal Tableware, Bayer Chemicals or Ruhrkohle.

His work was recognized and two of his creations were exhibited at the Darmstadt 1904 Posters Exhibition. It was on this opportunity that he met Peter Behrens, the future founder of the Werkbund, but also later to become the Director of the Architecture Department of the Fine Arts Academy during the early Hitler years.

Martin Jacoby-Boy’s first decor.

Photos of advertising posters


In parallel, Martin Jacoby-Boy started work on calligraphy and invented several typographic styles which are still presented in the Klingspor Museum in Offenbach am Main. From 1912 to 1926, he designed Bravour (1912, D. Stempel AG), Verzierte Bravour (1913, D. Stempel AG) and Jacobea (1928, Berthold). In 2009, Nick Curtis designed Bravado NF based on Bravour which seems to show that Martin Jacoby-Boy’s work is still alive.

Photos of typographies

Shortly after Martin Jacoby set up his own design company where he was to employ and train three future stars of the German artistic scene, Otto Hunte (the future artistic Director of the films ”Dr.Mabuse”, “The Niebelungen” and the world-famous “Der Blaue Engel”), as well as Erich Kettelhut  and Karl Vollbrecht ( who were to be the artistic directors of  Fritz Lang’s masterpiece “Metropolis”).

Alice Mikan in “Der Blaue Engel” (first on the left behind Marlene Dietrich)


By 1914 the “Manifest of the 93” was published and Martin Jacoby, aged 31 had become a highly recognized artist and continued working in the architectural sector making a reputation for himself which would, in a way, serve him later on.


When the war finished Germany was under the threat of experiencing a contagious bolshevic revolution and to prevent this from happening, as the first cracks of the Spartakist revolution appeared, under the inspired leadership of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the Nbr.2 man in the Imperial Army, General Ludendorff, later to become a strong supporter of Adolf Hitler and a participant in the Putsch of the Brasserie, decided that it would be a good deterrent for the people to offer them the new cinema technology and occupy them with films. He therefore decided to mobilize considerable government money to develop a German film industry and helped in the  promotion of the Woltersdorf Filmstadt set up by the film director Joe May, and commissioned Martin Jacoby to do this.

Woltersdorf Filmstadt.

Today, the Indian pyramids from “Das Indische Grabmal” are the emblem of the city of Wilmersdorf.

Martin Jacoby-Boy during the construction of the Woltersdorf Filmstadt.

The May Film team at work.

President Ebert visits the Woltersdorf Filmstadt (M.Jacoby-Boy is far right)


It was at this time that Martin, now going by his artist name Jacoby-Boy, met the then leading film director Joe May with whom he would start a 6-year long professional relationship.

Photo Joe May


The series starts in 1919 with the famed 8-episode film “Die Herrin der Welt” completed in 1920.

Photos “Die Herrin der Welt”

This is a picture of the team which worked on “Die Herrin der Welt”. Martin Jacoby-Boy is sitting next to Mia May; Otto Hunte is the fourth to the left of Joe May in the center, Erich Kettelhut is in the back row, wearing a white shirt.


Then comes “Die Legende der heiligen Simplicia” in 1920,

Photos “Die Legende der heiligen Simplicia”


then the same year “Die Schuld der Lavinia Morland”,

Photos “Die Schuld der Lavinia Morland”

Then “Der Henker von Sanct Marien”.

Then the 2-part masterpiece “Das Indische Grabmal” in 1921,

Photos “Das Indische Grabmal”


featuring Fritz Lang as story-writer, and who would redo the film to his taste in 1953,

Photo Fritz Lang


and finally his last film with Joe May “Tragödie der Liebe” in 1923

Photo “Tragödie der Liebe”

where he will meet and partner with Marlene Dietrich.

Martin Jacoby-Boy with Marlene Dietrich et Georg Jacoby

He will participate in one last film “So sind die Männer

Photo “So Sind die Männer”


directed by Georg Jacoby, before returning to more conventional architectural work between 1923 and 1933, his last years in Germany.


In 1928 he married  Alice Mikan, whom he had briefly met on the set of “Der Blaue Engel” while visiting Dietrich. The same year they will have their only daughter, Christina.

Then as early as 1929 begin the problems with the nazis and Martin Jacoby-Boy  hardly finds anymore work until he decides to emigrate as early as 1933, hoping to escape nazi persecution. But history caught up with him and although surprisingly, he was contacted by the Ministry of Propaganda run by Joseph Goebbels to renovate the Nazi party regional offices which he bluntly refused to do, he hurriedly had to flee to Holland first, before deciding in 1935 to join some nephews who had already emigrated to Argentina.

The local press was more than enthusiastic with the arrival of this European film star and reported extensively in the papers.

Photo from Argentinian newspapers .


There he will try to resume his architectural career and design some building projects such as the Ministry of Marine for the Argentine government.

Photo Ministry of the Navy

He will also try to establish a connection with some of the Jewish community immigrants who opted for the United States and make a contribution to the German exiled newspaper “Aufbau”,

Photo “Aufbau”

as well as to the Argentinian newspaper “Suerte”.

Helped by his usual energy, Martin Jacoby-Boy will even join his nephews in a new venture in the film area and help start the activities of an advertising film production company, IMASONO, which will eventually suffer from a take-over attempt by Juan Duarte, the corrupt brother of Evita Peron herself and personal secretary to President Juan Peron in 1949.

Business didn’t turn out as expected and the company went bankrupt. So Martin Jacoby-Boy in a last attempt to reconnect to the film world returned to Germany in 1953 where he stayed for a year before returning to Argentina, now aged 71, aspiring to some quietness. He will fight one more battle, the one which so many emigrants had to fight to receive some restitutions from the German government and when this finally materialized, he and his wife and daughter could move into a self-designed country house in a Buenos Aires suburb called Ingeniero Maschwitz, some 50 km north of the city.

Photo Maschwitz train station 

Photos of house and garden 

On the back-side of the house was a little vineyard where Martin Jacoby-Boy loved to sit and read.



His daughter Christina in time married, had children and for professional reasons, moved back to Europe, to Paris. This gave Martin Jacoby-Boy and his wife Alice the opportunity to visit Europe every year till it became difficult for them to travel due to their old age in the late 60’s.

 Martin Jacoby-Boy passed away in 1971 at the age of 88 years old. He had built a lovely corner for himself in this removed part of his native world. The house was beautifully decorated, including a wall-size charcoal drawing of a Chinese street as well as several others which he had also drawn, included on cooking recipes

Photo Japanese garden and cooking recipe book illustrations.


He also untiredly worked in his big garden, where he had set up a “Japanese garden », allowing him to perpetuate his love for Oriental culture, dated back to the “Japonisme” days and his Asian art collection. His wife Alice followed him in the final rest in 1976.