Born in Edinburgh, Willie Wilson served an apprenticeship with James Ballantyne, the stained glass maker. He received a travelling scholarship from Edinburgh College of Art, visiting France, Germany, Spain and Italy in 1932 where many of the compositions for the prints in this exhibition were conceived. Adam Bruce Thomson (1885-1976) was his main teacher and mentor for his printmaking. His earliest etchings of France, especially Chartres, show the influence of D. Y. Cameron, although this was superseded by the effects of his interest and knowledge of early German art. In 1937 he opened his own stained glass studio which was very successful, for the next 25 years receiving commissions for windows at Canterbury Cathedral and many Scottish Churches. He also made non-ecclesiastical stained glass, often of a slightly humorous nature, of which The Irish Jig in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is one of the best known.
As a watercolourist he was very much of the Edinburgh School, showing affinities with Gillies and Redpath, both of whom were close friends, but, as in all he did, his style was very distinctive. In 1961 in his mid fifties, he lost his sight as a result of diabetes, and spent the last years of his life with his sister in Lancashire. He is without doubt the best Scottish printmaker of the generation immediately after Cameron, Bone and McBey.