Neuroscientist and Artist Displays Work at Irvington Public Library  

Jacobson will be presenting 27 of his paintings in a retrospective of his artwork at the Irvington Public Library from Jan. 3 to 30. Photo supplied

In the professional arena, Tarrytown resident Dr. Alan M. Jacobson is highly regarded by his colleagues for his work in neuroscience and psychiatry. However, Jacobson has also been a prolific artist for over 35 years. He will be presenting 27 of his paintings in a retrospective of his artwork at the Irvington Public Library from Jan. 3 to 30. 

Jacobson first took an art course while getting his medical degree at the University of Chicago in the late 1960s. He painted on and off while he was in medical school and continued on his artistic journey while completing his residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and then becoming a tenured professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “I was painting in dribs and drabs; however, it wasn’t until the 1990s that I started to pick up steam,” says Jacobson. “For me, art is not a hobby, I’d call it a need and a passion. It feels like periodically I have to download what I see and feel to create something visual.” 

According to Jacobson, “A lot of my art derives from my sensitivities to peoples’ pain, and not just my patients’ pain, but pain in general.” He says that one of the seminal moments in his painting took place on an Easter Sunday in the late 1990s when Kosovo was at war and the news articles were all about the terrible things happening to people there. The news was very disturbing to him, and he says, “What I was reading at that time stimulated and reenergized me, and I began unleashing a lot of my art.” 

Many of Jacobson’s earlier paintings focus on particular parts of the human figure, especially the eyes. “I was very interested in the corner of the eye where it meets the nose. It’s the most expressive part of the face to me, and I had an intense desire to capture that in my art,” he says. 

Jacobson expanded to painting more of the human torso and focused on works that depicted isolated individuals of people trying to make contact and comfort one another. Over time, the artist has added background elements and decreased the size of the figures to emphasize the external world. His landscape pieces typically have a foreground, which is very dry and withered, and then a mountain range with a beautiful sky behind it.  

Veiled Man. Oil on plywood. Photo supplied

“I’m trying to capture the difference in what we experience on Earth and what our hopes and dreams are as represented by the sky,” says Jacobson. “The mountains tend to break up where we are and where we wish to be.” 

The most recent pieces in the show are brilliantly colored abstracts. He says the paintings are inspired by the heavens and biology, and “often look like cellular or astronomical objects.”  

As for his artistic future, Jacobson (currently a professor in the Foundations of Medicine Department at NYU Long Island School of Medicine and emeritus professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School), doesn’t rule out returning to drawing figures and landscapes. “It continually changes based on what I see, experience, and feel,” he says. 

There will be an opening reception for the exhibition at the Irvington Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 7 from 2 to 4 p.m.  In addition, Jacobson will give an artist talk on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 3 to 4 p.m. at the library. Both events are free and open to the public. 

The online version of the show is available at 

Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer residing in Briarcliff Manor. 





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