As the son of the famous landscape painter Willem Roelofs and brother of Albert Roelofs, Willem Elisa was born in Belgium. In July 1887, the Roelofs family moved to The Hague, where Willem Elisa would live most of his life. Like Albert, he attends the Academy in The Hague. He must also have learned a lot from his father. In 1919 he wrote the successful book 'The practice of painting; hints to colleagues by a painter' with useful hints about materials and colours and painting style that are reminiscent of Willem Roelofs. Willem Eliza specialized in painting still lifes with sea fish, flowers, landscapes and also painted some figure pieces, in impressionistic style.