I first met Jacob Kainen when I was in my early 20’s. We had studios in the same building, 802 F Street NW, across from the National Portrait Gallery. He became one of my best friends in D.C. Jacob gave private art lessons to Gene Davis and Alma Thomas. He was a very underrated painter himself. When he wasn’t painting he was a distinguished curator at the print department of the American Museum Smithsonian Institution in D.C.
He really respected my opinion because I was showing at the Corcoran and the Smithsonian at the time. He asked my advice about his paintings. My advice to him was always to get more colorful: “You’re in the City of Color – you should go wild with the colors.” He immediately started to brighten his palette.
I still remember his review in the Post, and how happy he was that day, when he came into my studio grasping the paper in his hands. He said that this was the first time he had received a good review for a long time in D.C. He thanked me profusely for giving him that advice.
Here’s the postcard I sent them in 1977 – (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian):
Among his friends were Mark Rothko and Arshile Gorky. Arshile painted his portrait in the early 1930’s, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum has a very fine pencil drawing that I drew of him in the 1980’s”.
On his 87th birthday (see photo above with the gorgeous and talented photographer Carol Harrison who was kind enough to send me this picture) he was still reciting flawless Shakespeare. A true scholar.
After two days of his passing, I received a registered letter with 10 $100 bills in it from him. With a note saying,” thanks for everything”. He was a great friend.