Born in Hutchesontown in Glasgow in July 1859, moving to Paisley to live with his brother when orphaned at an early age. William Kennedy attended the Paisley School of Art. He moved to Paris in the early 1880’s where he studied at Acadamie Julien. Upon returning to Scotland he established a studio in Stirling where he gained a reputation for painting accomplished rural landscapes. William Kennedy became a prominent member of a young (and now internationally famous) group of artists known as the Glasgow Boys; these young artists represented the start of modernism in Scottish painting, painting rural subjects, sketching and painting directly in front of their subject. In 1887 Kennedy was elected president of the society formed by the group’s members.
He first exhibited in London in 1886 and his painting of Millet’s house in Barbizon was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1883. William moved to Berkshire in 1890 and latterly Tangier where he died in 1918.