Monday, 1 July 2013

Percy Metcalfe (1895-1970) - Medals

This is the medal you are mostly like to encounter when searching for the medals by designed by the British Artist Percy Metcalfe - the bored blacksmith sitting on his anvil - a striking (sorry) art deco design created for the British Company "Nobel Industries Ltd" and struck at The British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley in 1924.

1933 - Everest Flight Medal.

For me this isn't the first time that I have encountered him..... for years I thought of him as a sculptor and designer of ceramic figures. For years my collecting interest was the pottery of "Ashtead Potters" and among the numerous designers associated with them was our Percy.

His most recognisable designs were a series of character jugs, including several politician of the day. These designs include Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin, Rt Hon S M Bruce and Rt Hon Sir Douglas McGarel Hogg.  Also reproduced in ceramic was his "Lion of Industry"

..... but there was no limited to his talents, he was able to apply his art to ceramics, bronze sculpture, war memorials,  decorative and commemorative medals and coinage for the Empire. He created coins for the Irish Free State, Australia (the same design was used on Rhodesian, New Zealand and Fijian coinages), 

He was born in Longfield Terrace, Alverthorpe, Wakefield, Yorkshire and studied at the Leeds School of Art, winning a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Art, London in 1914. This was at beginning of WW1 and soon Metcalfe enlisted and went to France to serve in the Royal Field Artillery. Whilst on active service he was badly injuring a leg. The injury was later to force him to give up large scale sculpture, as he could not stand for long.

I wonder whether he served in the armed forces and how that influences his later designs. There is something quite brutally simple about some designs, such as the  blacksmith or his Lion of Industry, all brooding menacing power, nothing soft or subtle.

Sadly he died in 1970 of bronchopneumonia in Fulham Hospital, Hammersmith, London.

His medals, coins and other designs can be found gallery and museum collections around the world, including; Museum Victoria (Australia), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), British Museum (75+ items), The Royal Mint Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

His legacy continues to this day, as his design for the Great Seal, the George Medal and the Irish coinage are still in use.

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