William Kent was born in 1919 at Kansas City, Missouri. After serving in the US Navy he graduated from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois in 1944 and attended Yale University School of Music, from 1944 to 1947 where he studied Music Theory and Composition with Paul Hindemith.
While at Yale, Kent became interested in art, and began to teach himself to paint in oils, and then to sculpt in clay, and carve in marble and wood. He never attended art classes and was completely self-taught. In the early 1950s he began carving into huge discarded slate blackboards, and developed a unique method of printing, icluding what he called 'planographs' as well as mono prints on fabric without assistants or the use of machinery.
He exhibited both his sculptures and his prints in New York City in the 1960s where they were critically acclaimed, and bought by museums and important collectors.
From 1960 to 1965 he was curator of the John Slade Ely House Art Center, New Haven, and Founder & Secretary of Professional Artist of Connecticut from 1962 to 1965. In 1965 a review of one of Kent’s shows in the New York Times, featuring satirical works by Kent based on Greek erotic vase paintings, triggered a scandal in New Haven in which he was accused by the trustees of the Ely House of being a "pornographer" and summarily dismissed from his curatorial post. from that time he devoted more of his time to wood sculpture.
From 1963-1976 he devoted himself solely to carving the bas-reliefs and pulling mono prints. By 1964 he had moved to a farm house in Durham. In 1977 he stopped making prints and resumed carving large wood sculptures, and worked in his barn studio until two days before his death.
Kent did not fit comfortably into any art "school." Although he was exhibited with POP artists during their popularity in the '60s, his biting political, and satirical works were too strong for POP; he called their work "home decoration." His work was also exhibited at an outsider art fair, but this sophisticated man was highly intelligent, well educated, and other than being self-taught and in later years living a reclusive life, he was certainly not an "outsider" artist.
He was founder and secretary of PAC (Professional Artists of Connecticut). In 2009, he received an award honoring artistic excellence from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Most recently he exhibited locally at The Sculpture Mile, Madison, Greene Art Gallery, Guilford, and a one-man exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery, New Haven, 2009.
William Kent never married and had no children. Several years before his death he formed the William Kent Charitable Foundation for the purpose of helping artists over age 60 in financial need, a state in which he found himself at times over the years.
William M. Kent died August 16, 2012, at his home in Durham, Connecticut.