William Sommer was born and schooled in Detroit, Michigan. He began work as a lithographer in Detroit, and then moved to Boston and New York, working for other commercial lithography companies. In 1907, Sommer moved to Cleveland to work for the Otis Lithography Company and made friends with two progressive artists, Abel Warshawsky and William Zorach. Along with several of his artist friends, Sommer co-founded the Kokoon Arts Club in 1911, to provide studios and socializing for more avant-garde artistic pursuits. After moving to the country environs of Brandywine outside of Cleveland, he continued to develop a colorful and expressive style of painting that was recognized locally and nationally. His favorite subjects were children, still lifes, and the farm landscapes and animals that surrounded him.