British architect and artist Thomas Medcalf lived and worked all of his life within Liverpool and the surrounding area. Two disciplines which often go hand in hand, Medcalf’s architectural career influenced his art and vice versa.
It seems Medcalf showed an interest in architecture from a young age. He expressed this through sketches and drawings, for which he won prizes from the Liverpool Architectural Society as a young man. Undoubtedly, having an artistic zeal would aid any young architect in the drawing up and design of buildings.
This is most clearly shown in a book he contributed to, which focussed on the history of the parish of Aughton, where Medcalf would live for the last years of his life. In a chapter focussing on the history and architecture of the parish church, Medcalf supplements the written word with delicately rendered watercolours illustrations. In these he demonstrates a sophisticated knowledge of proportions and perspective, utilising various shades of greys and blacks to create shadow and depth.
Whilst working professionally as an architect, Medcalf did also pursue a separate artistic path. He exhibited for a number of years in the 1880s at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. The remaining examples of his work demonstrate a watercolourist with a cunning understanding of light and colour. In a Turneresque swath of drama, he presents a foggy woodland in a shroud of wintery colours, so evocative they make the viewer shudder.
Medcalf could clearly apply his artistic skills in a straightforward manner to depict the architecture laid out before him, and in a more romantic, emotionally effusive fashion in his exhibited works.
The artistic vein running through Medcalf’s blood was passed onto his sons. He had four children with his wife, Harriet Benyon (1850-1928), whom he married in 1874. His second son, William James Medcalf (1878-1950), would become a successful artist. A student at the Liverpool School of Art, not only did he follow his father’s example in exhibiting at the Walker Art Gallery, but his work was also shown in various other exhibits. He was also the recipient of the National Gold Medal from the Science and Art Department of the South Kensington schools.
Medcalf’s other son, Thomas Benyon-Medcalf (1876-1958), followed in his father’s footsteps to become an architect whilst also pursuing art on the side.
Born in Kirkdale, Liverpool, Britain.
Awarded prize by the Liverpool Architectural Society.
Awarded first prize for figure drawing by the Liverpool Architectural Society.
Married Harriet Benyon.
Son William James Medcalf born.
Exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Britain.
Elected a guildsman of the Liverpool Art Workers’ Guild.
‘Gleanings towards the annals of Aughton, near Ormskirk’ published.
Died in Aughton, Liverpool, Britain.