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Edda M. Jakab

The Baltimore Sun

Edda M. Jakab, a Baltimore painter who at 17 married an American soldier in her native Germany, moved to the United States to raise a family and later blossomed into a well-reviewed artist, died of brain cancer Friday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care.

The 61-year-old wife and mother of two died on her 44th wedding anniversary, according to her family.

Mrs. Jakab began her formal art education in her 30s. The postponement of her art career sometimes frustrated her while she supported her spouse through graduate school and cared for two young daughters, according to her husband, George J. Jakab.

"Eventually, she said, 'It's my turn,'" Dr. Jakab said. Nonetheless, his wife was also fond of finding beauty in the "necessary journey" - an Emersonian phrase that captured the long road she traveled to becoming a fully formed artist, according to her husband.

Born Edda Riemann and raised in Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany, not far from Munich, she spent hours as a child doodling and drawing. Much of her time was spent alone after her father died during World War II, which forced her mother to go back to medical school and become a doctor to support the family.

"She was not athletically inclined," said Dr. Jakab, a native of Budapest, Hungary, and a professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University.

The couple met through a friend at the United Service Organization in Germany. "I thought, 'This is it,' when I met her. I never doubted it for a moment," Dr. Jakab said.

Still a high school student, Mrs. Jakab took a day off to wed in 1963 and returned to class the next morning as a married woman. She joined her husband later that year in the U.S., and the couple lived in Madison, Wis., and Shelburne, Vt., as Dr. Jakab pursued a doctorate in medical microbiology.

In 1977, the family moved to Baltimore.

Mrs. Jakab worked in secretarial jobs, tended to her husband and daughters and taught quilting at night. Both of her daughters would later become artists.

When her girls entered college, so did she.

She attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, devoting much of her time to watercolors.

"But one day, she said 'I can't do this anymore,'" her husband said.

And so began an exploratory period for Mrs. Jakab, who dabbled in a variety of elements on paper and canvas. Other artistic adventures took her into abstract works.

During what little time she wasn't working at her home studio, Mrs. Jakab also volunteered at the Baltimore School for the Arts, which both of her daughters attended.

Her art eventually drew local recognition.

In 1993, Sun art critic John Dorsey noted that in Mrs. Jakab's work Pen and Ink, the "image is neither as precisely delineated nor as full of objects as some of this artist's other still lifes, and because of those changes it has more staying power. One notices less the tour de force depiction of objects and more the creative tension in this work, so it communicates with greater complexity."

Four years later, the critic commented on Mrs. Jakab's latest showing.

"Edda Jakab's abstract paintings incorporating elements of landscape look even better in a space of their own than they have in recent group shows," Dorsey wrote in 1997. "With their lush colors and stimulatingly asymmetrical compositions, they play to one another, and add up to more than the sum of their parts, even though they're quite satisfying individually.

He concluded that "Jakab's sensual richness could become cloying if carried to excess, but here she avoids that pitfall."

No local service is planned. Her ashes will be brought to the Vermont Studio Center, near where she had hoped to retire, according to her husband. The family plans to throw a private party there to celebrate her life.

Survivors, in addition to her husband, include two daughters, Audrey Jakab, a sculptor in Philadelphia, and Christine Jakab, a photographer in Chicago.


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