Otto Reinhold Jacobi was born in 1812 in Königsberg, Germany. He is associated with the Düsseldorf school of painting.
In 1830 Jacobi studied in Berlin at the Royal Academy of Arts. He then studied at the Dusseldorf Art Academy with Johann Wilhelm Schirmer. In 1837 he was appointed the court painter to the Duchess of Nassau in Wiesbaden. During this time he also gave lessons in oil painting. He received many commissions from royalty.
While on a visit to New York in 1860, Jacobi was offered a commission to paint Shawinigan Falls as a gift for the Prince of Wales upon his state visit later that year. Instead of returning to Europe after the painting was completed, he settled in Montréal where he spent the next ten years.
In Montréal, Jacobi painted landscapes, taught privately, and worked for Notman and Fraser. Unlike the domestic landscape of farms and villages that were commonly produced during this time, Jacobi often painted waterfalls and forests. His compositions portray the wilderness as a romantic and heroic place. He painted in oils, sometimes on very large canvases. Or he would paint in watercolors, often smaller works.
From Montréal, Jacobi moved to Philadelphia then later to Toronto. He divided his time between the three cities, often sending artwork back to Europe.
He was invited to join the Ontario Society of Artists in 1876.
For a short time Jacobi was a teacher at the Ontario College of Art and Design.
His works have been presented at the annual Art Association of Montréal and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, which he became president of in 1890.
He died in 1901 in Ardoch, North Dakota.