William was born in Vicksburg, Missisippi in 1951, and although his mother worked in the cotton fields by day, she still managed to rear and educate her fourteen children.
To stimulate their learning his mother often engaged William and his older brother in drawing contests. After recognizing his talent, William’s mother began to borrow art books from the local library in order for him to study the traditional European masters.
Mr. Tolliver was a self taught artist — albeit one who is credited of reading more than 4,000 books on different subjects (mostly art).
By the age of ten, William was studying Chagall, Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso. By the age of fourteen, he was literate in all the technical terms and had evolved from mimicking cubism to incorporating abstract, realism, and impressionism into his own techniques.
Ultimately, WIlliam left Mississippi