Although there is no documentary evidence to prove it, William Calcott Knell was probably the son of the highly successful marine painter William Adolphus Knell. The two lived at the same address when William Calcott exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1848. He exhibited at the Royal Academy until 1862, and for a few years afterwards at the British Institution and the Suffolk Street galleries of the Royal Society of British Artists. He appears to have stopped exhibiting in 1865. However, he continued to paint until his death in 1876. His work is based upon his father's late style and is very much influenced by the work of the Dutch Romantics.