The son of a Kirkcaldy businessman, William Oliphant Hutchison studied at Edinburgh College of Art and in Paris. He was part of the group of young painters who exhibited as the Edinburgh Group immediately before and after the First World War. Surviving a severe war wound, from 1918 he lived in Edinburgh and London, practising as a portrait painter. In 1933 he became Director of Glasgow School of Art and distinguished himself as an able administrator especially during the war years, when he was in constant touch with students and staff on the front. He was knighted in 1953.