About the artist

Self Portrait, detail. Oil on canvas. Signed: McClelland Barclay 'self' 1938

McClelland Barclay (1891-1943) was one of the top commercial illustration artists of the 1920s and 30s in New York.

But he was much more than that.

This is but a brief summary of McClelland Barclay's life, artistic and patriotic legacy. To read the whole story and see many of his works, buy your copy of the first-ever illustrated biography of McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More

Talent from an early age

Barclay's artistic talent was noticed as a young boy in St. Louis when oil paintings of the ocean and a quick sketch of Mark Twain showed his skills at observation and portrait illustration. He was the youngest student at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, receiving a lifetime scholarship, and would have experienced the excitement of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair in his hometown.

He went to live with his aunt and uncle in Washington, DC, where he finished high school and took classes at the Corcoran School of Fine Art. After graduating and turning down a sports scholarship, Barclay left for New York City on a mission to make a living from his art. His training continued alongside classmates and fellow illustrators, Norman Rockwell and Andrew Loomis at The Art Students League. After a year at the Art Institute of Chicago, McClelland was poised to launch his career in 1915. Starting at the lowest level jobs, he worked his way up, illustrating ads for advertising agencies in Detroit, Chicago and New York.

A life and art changed by war

Like other artists of the "Golden Age of American Illustration," his life was disrupted by WWI, when America was building its military capacity and debating whether to enter the war. Barclay, joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in New York, and his illustrations appeared in wartime posters for the Red Cross Fund, the U.S. Federal Reserve Liberty bonds and U.S. Navy recruiting efforts.

Illustrating the American Art Deco era

By the 1920s, Barclay began illustrating ads for Dayton-Wright airplanes, Texaco fuels, Coca-Cola, Westinghouse, and more. He became well known for his high style "Fisher Body Girl" ads for GM automobiles. Similarly for Hummingbird Hosiery, he drew fashionable women and men enjoying the lifestyles of the upwardly mobile society of the Art Deco era. At the same time, his editorial illustrations were in demand and regularly published on the covers and pages of popular magazines from the 1920s to the early 1940s. Barclay's portrait of popular pin-up, Anna Neagle even starred alongside her in a 1940 film, and can be viewed today at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

By the 1930s, from atop his Fifth Avenue penthouse studio, he created sculptures as nautical trophies, and designed Navy service medals. To capitalize on his art, he established McClelland Barclay Art Products, Inc. to market metal home decor products including vases, desk accessories and figurines. And he began designing exquisite collections of Art Deco and Art Moderne costume jewellery produced by Rice-Weiner & Company that are highly collectible today.

History repeats

In 1939, Barclay's lifelong love of the sea and commitment to patriotic duty once again found him joining the U.S. Naval Reserve, and drawing war art.

This time it was illustrating U.S. Navy seamen in action for recruiting and military publications, or painting portraits of officers. It was while performing this duty in July 1943 that LCDR McClelland Barclay was lost at sea when the supply ship he was on was torpedoed in the South Pacific.

 

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McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More

a stack of the new hardcover illustrated biography, "McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More" by Patricia Gostick

Books

A beautiful Illustrated biography of 20th century artist, McClelland Barclay by Patricia... 

vintage McClelland Barclay bronze-plated metal cigarette or trinket box with lamb figurine

Home decor

Shop for authentic collectible McClelland Barclay home decor accents. Add a rare... 

very rare McClelland Barclay courtship charm bracelet in sterling silver

Jewellery

Shop our McClelland Barclay costume jewellery collection of bracelets, brooches and dress... 

Preview the book

Featured products: Home decor

Shop for authentic collectible McClelland Barclay home decor accents. Add a rare piece of Art Deco history to your home or office. From 1931 to 1939, McClelland Barclay Art Products, Inc. was a commercial enterprise the artist operated from New York to market his home decor accessories such as bookends, desk accessories, vases, statuettes, figurines, photo frames, and decorative boxes, bowls and plaques.

Signed Art Deco Metal Art: McClelland Barclay's signature is on his creatures from land and sea, allegorical figures and female nudes. Made of cast gold-plated bronze like this pelican figurine. Some were created in different finishes including "McClelland Barclay green" genuine bronze plate, real gold and silver plate and ivory enamel.

Devoted desk companions: A life-long dog lover, McClelland Barclay's art often included dogs. He immortalized the original seeing-eye dog in a pair of "Buddy" bookends. And, his miniature bronze-plated Pekingese figurine or Spaniel dog letter opener would make wonderfully loyal desk companions!

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