Eric William Welton Metcalfe was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1940 and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, where his family moved in 1943. He began drawing, cartooning and printmaking while attending St. Michael’s school in Victoria and later studied drawing and sculpture under Czech artist Jan Zack. After travels in Europe, Metcalfe returned to Victoria in 1963 to resume studies in art at the University of Victoria under Joan Brown, Denis Bowen and Dana Atchley.
In the late 1960s, Metcalfe became involved with Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov in the Image Bank correspondence network. The movement was based on an aesthetic of ephemerality, with artists adopting alter egos, forming fictional companies or building archives of collected images. It was during this time that Metcalfe developed the persona of Dr. Brute. In 1969, Metcalfe married artist Kate Craig (who adopted the alias Lady Brute) and, together, they collected materials with a leopard theme. Mail art correspondants contributed found images incorporating leopard imagery.
Dr. Brute was "an urban sadist meant to caricature the secret passions that smouldered underneath the veneer of genteel society in Brutiful British Columbia." (Scott Watson, "Return to Brutopia" in Return to Brutopia (Vancouver: UBC Fine Arts Gallery, 1992): 14.) Brute occupied Brutopia, a fictional world that incorporated leopard-spot imagery in every possible way. Metcalfe's Leopard Realty research, begun in 1970, was aimed at discovering and revealing the ubiquitous nature of ordinary exotica, synonymous with pornography and kitsch as well as a certain expression of sexual power.
Since the 1970s, Metcalfe has remained active, with recent exhibitions including The Attic Project (Southern Alberta Arts Gallery and Kamloops Art Gallery) and Laura (Arts-speak, Vancouver, 2004).
Metcalfe has had solo exhibitions at the Victoria Art Gallery (Victoria, 1968), A Space Gallery (Toronto, 1973), Western Front (Vancouver, 1977) and Artons (Calgary, 1977). Metcalfe also produced and performed in film and video extensively from 1972, in 1973 co-founding the Western Front artists' centre in Vancouver and, from 1978, curating its performance program. Metcalfe has also participated in group exhibitions in Canada, the United States, France, Australia, Argentina, Germany and Belgium.
In 2008, Metcalfe was awarded with the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.