NEW YORK CITY — Martin Jacobs, aka The Splendid Peasant, died December 11 from complications from open heart surgery. He was 86. As the Splendid Peasant, he operated a gallery in South Egremont, Mass., where museum quality folk art and painted furniture were displayed with skill and a distinctive aesthetic.
The gallery was a destination for American folk art collectors. It was Martin’s unique eye and sense of whimsy that made the gallery a favorite of local residents and Berkshires visitors. The South Egremont gallery operated 1987–2004.
After a three year sojourn to Bristol, R.I.,, to sail, one of his great passions, he returned to the Berkshires in 2008 to design and build a modernist home and gallery in Sheffield. He and his wife Kitty, also an active participant in the gallery, split their time between Sheffield and New York City.
Martin was born April 17, 1927, in New York. He grew up in the Bronx and was one of the first graduates of the Bronx High School of Science. He studied at City College, but was drafted into the Army during World War II. A better scholar than soldier, Martin was sent to Yale University where he learned Japanese. Alas, the war ended before he could use his newly acquired language skills to support the war effort.
Martin (with the help of the GI bill) enrolled at Yale University and received a degree in psychology in 1948. He undertook graduate studies at Yale, and ultimately received his doctorate in psychology from Adelphi University.
For many years Martin lived in Oyster Bay on Long Island Sound and sailed a succession of ever more beautiful wooden boats. He was a practicing psychologist in New York City and on Long Island until he relocated to the Berkshires. For a time Martin continued to see patients in Massachusetts while running The Splendid Peasant.
Survivors include Kitty, his wife of 20 years; his daughter Claudia Jacobs of Brattleboro, VT.; his son Peter Jacobs of Zurich, Switzerland; and his granddaughter Emily Jacobs-Palmer of Somerville, Mass.
Martin had a zest for life, a loving heart and a strong intellect. His homes and galleries bespoke his wish to surround himself with beauty. He was a loyal and loving friend to many. He had enormous enthusiasm for adventures, encounters, new experiences and new people.
He loved food, its preparation, and its presentation but when dining out, his tastes often ran to pastrami, hot dogs and Chinese food. He was a raconteur par excellence with a sparkling sense of humor and an infectious laugh. He touched family, friends, clients and patients and truly made a difference in their lives. He will be missed by all who knew him.
A celebration of Martin’s life will take place in the spring.