William Scott was born in 1913 in Greenock, Strathclyde in Scotland. At the age of 14, Scott received first art lessons, in which he was already made familiar with artists such as Cézanne, Modigliani, Picasso, and Derain. These artists had an enormous influence on the works of the young Scott. In 1928, William Scott began his art studies at the Belfast College of Art, though he later went to the Royal Academy Schools in London, where he concluded his course of studies in 1935.
Scott's early works can be identified by his many still lifes in an abstract style. During his first educational trip to the United States, he had the chance to personally meet such notable artists as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline; following this trip his style changed somewhat. From then on, his painting took up a quite unique position between figurativeness and abstraction.
From 1941 until 1956, Scott lectured at the Bath Academy of Art. With his participation in the "documenta" exhibitions in Kassel in 1955, 1959, and 1964, the artist received much international renown. In 1984, Scott was inducted into the Royal Academy.
William Scott died on December 28, 1989, at the age of 76 in Bath.