Victor Willing was born in Alexandria, Egypt but moved with his family to England in 1932. He studied at the Guildford School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art from 1949 to 1954. Following graduation, his early paintings were mainly figurative. He had a show in the Hanover Gallery in 1955 which was a considerable success. In 1957 he moved to Portugal with Paula Rego, whom he eventually married in 1959, although during his time there he painted very little and destroyed much of his work. Following the Portuguese revolution in 1974, he returned to England with his family, settling permanently in London. In London he began to paint again. He rented a room and painted in isolation for long periods.
Willings’ paintings from the 1970s reflect the hallucinations he experienced, potentially as a result of the drugs he was taking to treat multiple sclerosis. As well as his paintings, his drawings were also exhibited at the AIR Gallery in 1978. This exhibition was a commercial success and he was recognised as an important and established artist in the 1980s, exhibiting at the Serpentine and the Whitechapel Art Galleries. Due to his worsening health, Willings’ large-scale paintings of the earlier eighties gave way to work on a smaller scale in the late 1980s, a series of heads at the Karsten Schubert Gallery in 1987 being his last exhibition. Following his death, Willing’s work has been displayed in several solo and retrospective exhibitions.