William was born in 1940, grew up in Berkshire, and was educated at Windsor Grammar School. He studied painting at Wimbledon School of Art (NDD 1963), and trained as a teacher at Brighton College of Art (ATC 1964). He taught full-time for a while, as Art Master at his old school, and then part-time at art schools around the country, principally at Colchester, or as a visiting tutor, and latterly as an external examiner and advisor. At various times through, the 1970s and 80s, he served terms on the Fine Art Board of the Council for National Academic Awards, on the Advisory Committee to the Government Art Collection, and as a member of the Crafts Council, and remains on the Council of the Artists’ General Benevolent Institution, and the Governing Boards of Heatherley’s Art School and The Federation of British Artists.
He has been writing about Art since the late 1960s, first as London Correspondent of Art & Artists, and since 1974, as an art critic for the Financial Times (it’s principal art critic 1978-2004). He has contributed to many other publications, to innumerable exhibition catalogues, and has published several books – on Henry Moore, John Houston, Tai-Shan Schierenberg, and Fashion Drawing in Vogue, among them. He was sole curator of the first British Art Show (for the Arts Council 1979), curated an Elizabeth Blackadder retrospective (for the Scottish Arts Council 1981), and has been variously involved in many other exhibitions. He has served on many exhibition and competition selection panels, including the John Moores, the Portrait Award, the Discerning Eye, The Treadneedle Prize and, over many years, the Hunting Prizes.
He has always continued in his work as a painter, if not perhaps always with the regularity he might have wished. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1963 and has shown there on occasion since, besides continuing to participate in other exhibitions whenever opportunity, or selectors, allow. He has been showing regularly with the Piers Feetham Gallery since 1996.
Besides the New English Art Club, he is a member of the Small Paintings Group, and an Honorary Member of the Pastel Society, the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Society of British Sculptors. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art.
He has always worked from the thing seen – the figure, landscape, still-life – though there were times, especially in the later 1960s, when the landscape in particular was abstracted to a degree. He has also sometimes worked from secondary photographic reference, though never in any closely photo-realist sense. An underlying concern remains, as it has always been, the reconciliation of the formal elements within the work to what is observed. Since the mid-1990s he has worked principally with still-life, as much to maintain some regular studio practice in a necessarily unpredictable working life, as for the particular interest it affords. While it presents a world in itself, it is not an exclusive preoccupation.