Born circa 1846 on Long Island, New York, while his British parents were in the United States on a mission for Queen Victoria. He later returned to England with his parents, where he grew up and studied at the Royal Academy with Frederic Leighton.
Rose returned to the U.S. in 1883 and permanently settled in Detroit, Michigan. He executed portraits of many prominent figures, including President William McKinley, William Maybury (Mayor of Detroit), and Hiram Walker.
He died in Florida on October 23, 1938, and was buried in Detroit. His son William S. Rose, Jr. was also a painter.
The great-grandson of the artist, Marcus Pillion