Jacob Steinhardt was born in Żerków, Germany (now Poland). He attended the School of Art in Berlin in 1906, then studied painting with Louis Corinth and engraving with Hermann Struck in 1907. From 1908 to 1910 he lived in Paris, where he associated with Henri Matisse and Théophile Steinlen, and in 1911 he was in Italy. When World War I broke out, he enlisted in the German Army, and served on the Eastern Front in Poland and Lithuania, and then in Macedonia. After the war, he returned to Berlin, and in 1922 married Minni Gumpert. They immigrated to Israel in 1933, after he was harassed by the German police, dominated by the Nazis who recently came to power.