Jakob Philipp Hackert began his training with his father Philipp Hackert, a portrait artist, and between 1753 and 1755 continued in Berlin as a pupil of Blaise Nicolas Le Sueur (1716-1783) at the German Academy of Fine Arts. He began to take an interest in landscape painting and in order to master the techniques he reproduced the works of other such painters, as Frenchman Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) and Dutchmen Jan Asselyn (ca. 1615-1652) and Nicolaes Pietersz (1620-1683).
Hackert completed his training travelling around Europe, first in Northern Germany, then in Sweden. Between 1765 and 1768 he lived in Paris, where he met several influential artists of the time, amongst which Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) a famous landscape painter who had trained in Italy under Bernardino Fergioni (1674-1738). It was in Vernet’s studio that Hackert began to be inspired by his paintings of Italian landscapes.
After his position began to stabilise, Hackert invited his brother, Johann Gottlieb Hackert (1744-1773) to reach him. In 1768 the two brothers left for Rome, which remained their main residence until 1786. During this time in the Eternal City they often visited the Roman Campagna, Tivoli and the Castelli Romani, and in 1770 they went on their first trip to Naples. The following year Hackert received an important commission from Catherine II of Russia: she asked him to depict the victory of Russia over Turkey in the battle of Cesmé, and thus his fame amongst his contemporaries grew considerably. In 1772 another two of his brothers reached him in Rome, whereas Johann Gottlieb left for London taking with him some paintings commissioned by their English clients. He went sick there and died in Bath in 1772.
Hackert’s works had many prominent clients, amongst which Marcantonio IV Borghese (1730-1800) who commissioned a series of nine paintings for Villa Pinciana. This enabled Hackert to turn down the prestigious post of court painter in Russia, offered him by the grand duke Pavel Petrovič Romanov whom he met in Rome in 1781.
In 1782 Jakob Philipp went back to Naples and was presented to King Ferdinand IV (1751-1825) who commissioned numerous works. Four years later he became his court painter. In 1787 during his last stay in Naples, he met several times with Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832). The great German poet admired the works of his fellow countryman, took painting lessons from him and urged him to write his autobiography, which, after his death, he edited and published.
In 1798 the political unrest forced the Bourbons to take refuge in Palermo and the arrival of the French troops in Naples obliged Hackert to leave the city and his comfortable court life. After a year in Pisa, in 1800 he settled in Florence. Three years later he bought an estate in San Pietro di Careggi where he continued to paint and to study rocks, trees and plants which he considered the basis of his landscapes. He died on April 28th 1807.