Born in Bad Lauterburg in 1880, Walter Schnackenberg found his vocation as a draughtsman and painter while still very young. At 19 he went to Munich, where he at first attended Heinrich Knirr's painting school before going on directly, like so many of his contemporaries, to study at the Franz von Stuck Academy.
Drawing is Schnackenberg's strong point. His lively imagination made him particularly good at caricature. He drew for the celebrated magazines "Jugend" and "Simplizissimus". His themes were theatre and the comic muse.
Travelling extensively, Walter Schnackenberg often went to Paris, where he was especially interested in the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. As a print-maker, Schnackenberg devoted himself mainly to poster art and his most mature work is in this genre. He was also well-known as a designer of stage scenery and costumes. With his evident preference for frivolous ladies, he was highly fashionable in his day.
Walter Schnackenberg does not have the acutely critical approach of a Grosz or a Hubbuch. Instead, his works resemble those of Jeanne Mammen, who devoted herself to portraying pert Berlin girls. During the late phase of his career,Walter Schnackenberg introduced surreal elements into his work. People with bestial, mask-like faces were intended to symbolize the unsatisfied lusts and addictions of the petty bourgeois.
Schnackenberg spent his last years in Rosenheim and died there in 1961.