Born 1901 in Hofeld, Saarland
Died 1972 in Wiesbaden, Germany
From Germany, Willi Knapp was born in St. Wendel about five miles from Saarbrucken. Wilhelm Knapp, known as Willi, became a sculptor, architectural decorator and painter in realist style. Although his decorations were commercial appearing, his painting and sculpture leaned toward classical realism and avoided modernist or abstract styles.
His father was a blacksmith, and Willi, as a young man, took jobs as a railroad mechanic before immigrating in 1924 at age 23 to America. First he was in Chicago where he took evening classes at the Art Institute, and four years later, he moved to Milwaukee where he made money by doing architecture sculpture. Among his projects was the lobby for the Wisconsin Gas Company Building at 626 East Wisconsin Avenue, and the second story of a building at the corners of Oakland Avenue and Capitol Drive.
In Milwaukee, he was well liked, respected for his work, and was described as "a jovial, talkative man." He met numerous architects including Frank Lloyd Wright and Alfred Clas, of whom he did a portrait bust that is in the Milwaukee Public Library art collection. He also did a portrait bust of the German philosopher, Knapp first did painting as an avocation, but encouraged by Robert von Neumann, he pursued the activity more seriously beginnin