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Sir William Oliphant Hutchison was born in Kirkcaldy 2 July 1889, and was educated at Kirkcaldy High School, Cargilfield, and later at Rugby School. He entered Edinburgh College of Art in 1909 where he studied until 1912, leaving to form the Edinburgh Group with Eric Robertson, A.R. Sturrock, G. Spence Smith, and D.M. Sutherland (later Principal of Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen). He studied in Paris, and worked primarily as a portrait painter although he also exhibited landscape and figure paintings. Hutchison served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War, in Malta and in France, where he was severely wounded. Shortly after his demobilization, late in 1918, he and his wife took a studio flat in York Place in Edinburgh. They remained there only until 1921, when they moved to London.
Hutchison practised as a portrait painter and had some measure of success. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, joined the Savage Club, and had a wide circle of friends, mainly connected with the arts. He was appointed Director of Glasgow School of Art in 1933 and guided the School through the pre-war years, overseeing connections between the School and the Empire Exhibition of 1938 and the first four years of World War II. Although he had had no teaching experience, he made an excellent director. He painted very much in the academic tradition but was always ready to help and encourage students and young artists who aspired to the avant-garde. He maintained a keen interest in all staff and students, and those serving in the armed forces were sent cards and presents from the School.
Hutchison was a member of the Glasgow Art Club, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. He retired from Glasgow School of Art in 1943 to continue with portrait painting in Edinburgh and London. In 1964 he held an exhibition of his work in London. Hutchison was a retiring and modest man but he had a good speaking voice and was in demand as a public speaker. He was also a great raconteur and his reminiscences of his early days in London were a never failing source of pleasure and amusement to his family and friends. He died suddenly at his home in London in February 1970.