William Ratcliffe spent almost 20 years designing wallpaper before turning to painting upon the strong encouragement of Harold Gilman who he met in 1908. In 1910 he attended the Slade School of Fine Art and in the meantime attended Fitzroy Street meetings. He was part of the Camden Town Group before World War I and amongst the founder members of the London Group. With the guidance and support of Gillman, Ratcliffe spent time with Sickert painting in Dieppe and also went to Sweden. He exhibited in a number of the leading London galleries at the time: Carfax, NEAC, Goupil, in America and with Roland, Browse and Delbanco.