Gale was born in London, educated at Brompton Grammer School, and studies art at Sass's and the Royal Academy, where he exhibited for nearly fifty years. He also supported the British Institution and the Society of British Artists. He concentrated mainly on subject pictures, drawing inspiration from the Bible, classical mythology, history and English literature from Chaucer to Tennyson. He travelled extensively, in Italy, the Holy Land and Algeria. Although a few years older than the Pre-Raphaelites, like others of his generation William Gale went through a Pre-Raphaelite stage of painting, for example his 1857 Royal Academy exhibit, The Confidante, now in the Tate Gallery, London. However by the 1860s Gale had returned to a more conventional Victorian idiom.