William Hackstoun was born in Balbreakie in Fife. He first trained as an architect in Glasgow then studied music in London and Italy. Hackstoun flirted with an operatic career before finally turning his attention to painting. He was encouraged to draw by the writer and art critic John Ruskin. Hackstoun lived in London for many years before moving back to his native Fife and settling in St Andrews. He largely confined himself to painting the local landscape and views of Perthshire, using strong colours and highly stylised forms. Hackstoun hardly ever exhibited his work, which has a somewhat naïve and slightly surreal charm.