A native of Jacksonville, King studied engineering at the University of Florida before entering the Cooper Union Art School. Additional studies at the Accademia dei Belli Arte in Rome, made possible by a Fulbright grant, and at the Central School in London in 1952 completed King's formal artistic training. Since then King has taught intermittently at the Brooklyn Museum School, the University of California at Berkeley, the Art Students League, the University of Pennsylvania, and various branches of the State University of New York. A sculptor who works in materials as diverse as vinyl and bronze, King uses long-legged, lanky male figures to explore human foible and pose. Body type and scale provide a never-ending source of formal and thematic richness, and through witty choreography, King's figures leer, ponder, share, love, and otherwise exemplify the emotions, drama, and humor of everyday life.
Virginia M. Mecklenburg Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1987)
As a child, William King built model airplanes and carved cities out of coral with a screwdriver “chisel” and a hammer “mallet” (William King: Forty Years of Work in Wood, 1994). He briefly studied engineering at the University of Florida before enrolling in the architecture program at the Cooper Union Art School. During his first year at Cooper Union, King was impressed by the steel sculptures of David Smith and promised to make a similar piece for an attractive female classmate. He began selling works to friends and fellow students and committed himself to a career in sculpture. King constructs his pieces from a variety of materials, ranging from burlap to wood to aluminum. He draws inspiration from daily life, and his tall, elongated figures imitate everyday human gestures, poking fun at human behavior.