Sir William Hutchison was born at Kirkcaldy and studied in Paris and at Edinburgh College of Art. At Edinburgh he met E.A. Walton, an early influence upon his work. Together with Eric Robertson, D.M. Sutherland and others, Hutchison formed the Edinburgh Group in 1912.
After war service he married E.A. Walton's daughter, Margery. The couple lived in Edinburgh for a while, where Hutchison painted portraits, before moving to London in 1921. Hutchison continued with portraiture and painted many distinguished people, including members of the Royal Family. He also painted landscapes. In 1933 Hutchison became director of Glasgow School of Art, a post he held for ten years. Although his own style was traditional he was a liberal thinker and enthusiastically supported the experimental in his students.
He was president of the Royal Scottish Academy between 1950 and 1959, during which time he lived at Eglinton Crescent, Edinburgh. Sir William Hutchison was knighted in 1953. He died at home in London.