Retired Augustana Math Professor Returns to Campus to Major in Art

"Triple Self Portrait," by Dr. Emil Knapp. 

Emil Knapp

Among the 11 senior art majors exhibiting work at the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery's new exhibit, “Miscellanea: The Augustana Senior Art Show,” is an artist who had a most unusual path to completing an art major. 

In 2012, Dr. Emil Knapp retired from a 40-year career of teaching in Augustana's mathematics department. After his retirement, he continued to tutor, taught a course, and wrote and presented a new research paper. 

“But I thought I should do something entirely new, as well, and so I immediately started taking art courses."

— Dr. Emil Knapp
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
Augustana Class of 2018 Art Major

Knapp specialized in drawing, and particularly enjoys creating portraits. Several examples are on display in the Senior Show, including a self-portrait entitled “Badass,” and portraits of all of his fellow graduating art majors. 

During his art studies, Knapp also explored three-dimensional design, stained glass, and wood carving, which have become new interests for him.

“With the extra dimension, some things are easier in carving than in drawing, and some are harder,” notes Knapp. “Easier is that you do not have to be clever to make the work look three-dimensional. Harder is fixing mistakes.”

Although the professors of drawing (Scott Parsons) and sculpture (John Peters) were Knapp’s most important mentors, this non-traditional student found a welcoming department. 

“I feel that the entire art department has taken a great interest in educating me. Even Anna Reich (professor of photography), with whom I have not had a course, has suggested artists whose work I should look at. Right now, ceramics professor Gerry Punt, a friend for many years, is helping me think more deeply about general design principles.”

Following the completion of his art major, Knapp plans to keep making art but also plans to try new endeavors. 

“My goals as an artist are modest,” he said, explaining that people connect differently to art and science.

“Although I am much more skilled as a mathematician than as an artist, to me, art does have at least one important advantage.

Maybe only one in many thousands of people can understand my best work as a mathematician, but anyone can see something in my art.”

Knapp’s artwork, along with that of 10 other graduating art majors, will be on display as a part of “Miscellanea: The Augustana Senior Art Show” at the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery, April 26-May 19, 2018.  A free public reception is set for 7-9 p.m. on Friday, April 27, with artists’ talks and awards at 7:30 p.m. This exhibition is generously sponsored by the families of Palmer Eide and Ogden Dalrymple. 


The Eide/Dalrymple Gallery is located on Commons Circle (30th Street and Grange Avenue), in the Center for Visual Arts at Augustana University. The gallery is open to the public and free of charge. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 1-4 p.m.