Wilhelm list was the son of Charles Maximilian List, an engineer of the city engineer, and his wife Sidonie Schneider. After Philosophy at the University of Vienna, he studied from 1885 to 1889 at the Vienna Academy for Christian Griepenkerl, then in Munich and at William Adolphe Bouguereau in Paris. From 1893 he had an exposition at the Künstlerhaus Wien and in 1896 became a member of the artists’ house.
In 1897 he was co-founder of the Vienna Secession and exhibited there regularly. He led the editors of the magazine 1900/01 Ver Sacrum and was one of the twelve illustrators of the catalog of the Vienna Secession in 1902, which was dedicated to Beethoven. In 1905 he left the Secession together with the artists to Gustav Klimt.
His paintings are similar to those in the art of Gustav Klimt. Thematically, he worked on portraits, landscapes and genre scenes, often with magical or mythological subjects. Important are especially its graphics, woodcuts and lithographs.