Wilhelm Petersen learned the painting profession from Peter Gustav Dorén in Hamburg. He became active in painting and restoring. After the War, he became active as an illustrator at Hörzu. In 1953, he became an artist of the popular 'Mecki' comic, alternating with Reinhold Escher and Heinz Ludwig. In 1975, Wilhelm Petersen won the Friedrich-Hebbel-Preis for his painting work. The same day, his house burned down by arson, and a third of his work was destroyed. Petersen retired in 1977, when his eyesight began to fail. He died on 22 May 1987, nearly blind.