William Grosvenor Congdon was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on 15 April 1912, on the night the Titanic sunk. His parents belonged to two illustrious families of protestant industrialists. William grew up in an environment that was well to do and full of possibilities, accustoming him to travel and new experiences from an early age. His childhood was difficult and marked by a deep wound: his difficult relationship with his father, by whom William felt emotionally rejected and unappreciated. It was this difficult relationship with his father that awoke his creative gift. Bill first took up art to find a space in which to define himself, far from unforgiving paternal aspirations, rooted in the business mentality and Protestant Puritanism. In 1934 Congdon attended a three-year painting course led by Henry Hensche, in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He then enrolled in the drawing and sculpture school run by the sculptor George Demetrios, in Boston and Gloucester for three consecutive years.
In 1939 he opened a studio in Lakeville, Connecticut, thanks to the support of an influential maternal aunt and despite the resistance of his immediate family. During these years he continued his European travels, visiting Venice for the first time.