Jekabs Kazaks was born on February 18 1895 in Riga. He studied at the Riga City Art School between 1913 and 1915 and the Penza Art School during World War I, (1915-1917). Kazaks style contained elements of Impressionism, West European Old Masters, modern French painters and early 20th century Latvian Modernism. He used his influences and interests to create a personal style characterised by expressiveness, simplicity, synthesis and distortion of forms. He was involved in the formation of the Expressionists' Group in 1919 and then the Riga Artists' Group as its theoretician and first chairman.
Several of his major works portray the everyday life of refugees, he also painted portraits and self-portraits. His medium was conditional colour pattern in oil and water colour which he augmented with various graphic tecnhiques (Indian ink, drawing, linocut, woodcut). Over 40 of his oil paintings as well as around 150 of his water colours and drawings are exhibited at the Latvian State Museum of Art.