Working as a painter and printmaker, William Walcot became the most celebrated architectural artist in England during the 1920s and 30s. William Walcot was born at Lustdorf, near Odessa, on 10 March 1874, the elder son of travelling merchant, Enoch Shannon, known as Frank Walcot, and his Russo-German wife, Catherine. During his childhood, he travelled through Europe with his parents, attending schools in Amiens and Paris in the 1880s. On returning to Russia at the age of 17, he studied architecture under Louis Benois at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, St Petersburg (1895-97), and also in Paris at Atelier Redon, in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He practised architecture in Moscow for five years, designing the city’s Hotel Metropol (1898-1902) and several villas, and subsequently visiting Rome and London. While still in Moscow, he met and married an Irish governess, Margaret Ann O’Neill.
However, she suffered from ill health and would die of tuberculosis on the Isle of Wight in 1904.
Settling in London in 1907, Walcot was first employed as a draughtsman to the architect Eustace Frere. He soon became a freelance draughtsman, producing presentation drawings for a number of leading architects to show their clients and to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts. His treatment of these drawings as works of art rather than technical exercises led to commissions from the Fine Art Society to visit Rome and Venice, and he held a total of eight solo shows with that dealer (1908-28). He also showed watercolours and etchings with leading exhibiting societies, and was elected to the membership of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (ARE 1918, RE 1920) and the Royal Society of British Artists (1913). He was additionally a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1922) and an associate of the British School at Rome. Steeped in the culture and architecture of antiquity, he designed and illustrated luxury editions of Salammbô (1926) and Hérodias (1928) by Gustave Flaubert for Les Editions d’Art Devambez.
In 1911, Walcot entered a second marriage, with Alice Maria Wheelan, and she would bear him two daughters. However, from 1926, he lived with Ada Grace Chamberlain, known as Margot; together they would have a daughter and son.
The most celebrated architectural draughtsman in England through the 1920s and 30s, Walcot worked from studios in London, Oxford and Rome at the height of his career. However, his practice collapsed on the outbreak of the Second World War, and he went into a decline. Moving with his family to the Ditchling estate of Frank Brangwyn early in the war, he entered St George’s Nursing Home, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, in 1943. While at the nursing home, on 21 May 1943, he fell from a window to his death.
His work is represented in the collections of The Cleveland Museum of Art.
Further reading: Catherine Cooke and Polly Walcot Stewart, ‘Walcot, William (1874-1943)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 56, pages 760-761; J M Richards, ‘Walcot, William [Valkot, V F] (b Lustdorf, near Odessa, Russia, 10 March 1874; d Hurstpierpoint, W Sussex, 21 May 1943), Jane Turner (ed), The Dictionary of Art, London: Macmillan, 1996, vol 32, page 773