Jacob Kramer was born in the Ukraine to Jewish parents, who moved when he was young to Leeds which had a strong Jewish community, and there he studied at the Leeds College of Art (which from 1968 - 1993 was known as the Jacob Kramer College of Art). He also studied at the Slade, where he came into contact with the Vorticists who were to influence his early work, and he exhibited with them in their 1915 exhibition, when still only aged 23. He also became friendly with other eminent Jewish artists working in London at the time such as Epstein and Gertler. In Leeds he also developed a reputation as a fine portraitist through which he was able to subsidise his other work. One of his major patrons in Leeds was Sir Michael Sadler, one of the most discerning collectors of the day.