Cathy Knapp's late husband, the internationally renowned enamellist and sculptor Stefan Knapp, left a unique collection of paintings and sculpture which are on display in the house and grounds.
Cathy's move to Maesmawr in 2008 was prompted by the need to find a home and exhibition space for the permanent collection.
The Stefan Knapp Project opened in April 2011 in what would have been Stefan Knapp's 90th year.
Having been imprisoned in a Russian gulag in the late 1930s, Knapp joined the Polish ‘Anders’ army based in the Soviet Union on his release in 1942, later transferring to Britain, where he trained as a Spitfire pilot in the RAF.
After the war he studied at the Royal Academy and the Slade School of Fine Art before embarking on an artistic career that specialised in murals, often of unprecedented size. This culminated in a highly acclaimed 1954 exhibition in London where he demonstrated a new technique he had developed of melting glass into piece of light steel using specially constructed furnaces.
Knapp’s pioneering work using this method led to him patenting a technique of painting with enamel paint on steel, thereby allowing him to create large murals for public buildings that could last for centuries if needs be.
In the 1950s the architect Denys Lasdun commissioned Knapp to create a mural for the foyer of Hallfield Primary School in Westminster, and further commissions involved a large mural for the Warsaw Metro, entitled The Battle of Britain and a huge mural for the New Jersey department store Alexander’s in 1961. The latter, installed in 1963, was so large – it comprised 280 panels and weighed 250 tons – that it became a landmark for planes coming into land at JFK airport, was reputedly the largest public mural in the world and featured on the cover of Time magazine. According to Glass on Metalmagazine, having assembled it in his studio, Knapp was photographed using skis to cross it while he applied the enamel and paint.
The project also helped him develop a new acrylic paint with Rowneys suited to fast painting.
Knapp went one better in 1967 when he completed the longest mural in the world for Alexander’s White Plains store; with 450 panels, it ran to 1500 metres and could only be photographed in its entirety at a distance from a helicopter.
As Knapp’s reputation grew, so did the commissions. He worked on projects like the Shell and Seagram buildings with other leading artists of the day, such as Mark Rothko, Salvador Dalí and Jackson Pollock.
Among the major projects he undertook was the creation of a series of enamel panels for Heathrow Terminal One, a commission dating to 1958 that was fully realised when the terminal opened ten years later.