Jacob Landau was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 17, 1917. Landau began drawing at the age of three, and when he was 12 he began studying at the Graphic Sketch Club, now known as the Samuel Fleisher Memorial. In 1934 he won a competition in Scholastic magazine for his illustration for Kipling's Jungle Book. In 1935, Landau received a scholarship from the Museum School of Industrial Art to study illustration, printmaking and painting. After graduating in 1939 he moved to New York City, where he experimented with a variety of styles, treatments and media.
In 1943, Landau was drafted into the armed forces, serving two years overseas in the Mediterranean Theater. His service in Italy included work as the art editor, photographer, and reporter of At Ease, a special services magazine. Landau was discharged in 1946 and he used the G.I. Bill to further study art.After spending a year at New York's New School for Social Research, Landau moved to Paris with his family to study at the Academie Julian and the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He met printmaker Leonard Baskin, who taught him woodcut. From 1954 to 1957 Landau taught at the Philadelphia College of Art before moving to Pratt Institute where he taught for 20 years. In 1975, he became a faculty member of the Artist teacher Institute. Jacob Landau died on November 24, 2001 in New Jersey.