William Longstaff was born in Victoria, Australia in 1879. He served in the South African War as both a soldier and artist, before travelling to the United Kingdom. There he studied art at the Slade School in London, and also in Paris. He lived in England until the outbreak of the First World War, when he was appointed as one of the Australian Official War Artists, and was also in charge of camouflage operations for the Australian forces.
After the war Longstaff lived in London, working in the War Records Section, painting a series of war pictures now in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1919.
Longstaff is now best known for his allegorical works. Prints of his “Carillon” (1934) hung in many New Zealand school rooms between the First and Second World Wars. “Carillon” was purchased by Lord Wakefield of Hythe, presented to the Dominion Government, and originally hung in the National Art Gallery.
Longstaff died in 1953.