1891 - 1943
McClelland Barclay was born in 1891, in St. Louis, Missouri, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He moved to New York City in 1912 to make his way in the art world and study at the Art Students League. He quickly became known about New York as a colorful character and according to Life magazine was “talented and seen all around the town”. Tom Fogarty and George Bridgeman were his most influential teachers at the Art Students League and encouraged him to go directly into illustration as he needed immediate income. After a year of study, he garnered several important commissions and his work was soon gracing the covers of national publications. During the 1920’s and 30’s, McClelland Barclay’s images were selected by art directors for the nation’s most popular periodicals: Collier's, Country Gentleman, Redbook, Pictorial Review, Coronet, Country Life, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, and a host of movie magazines.
In 1930, the General Motors Company selected Barclay’s ‘Fisher Body Girl’ for a series of advertisements, and she quickly became as popular as ‘The Gibson Girl’ and ‘The Christy Girl’. He used his wife, just 19 years old, as the model for the iconic Fisher Autobody image.
She later appeared in magazine advertisements and was so well published and plastered across the country on billboards that she was recognized wherever she went. He also painted advertisements for A & P, Eaton Paper, Elgin Watches, Humming Bird Hosiery, and Lever Brothers, amongst others.
In the late 1930’s, Barclay also set up a small company to reproduce jewelry and utilitarian figures for ashtrays, bookends, desk sets, and other articles for home and office use. These products were fabricated out of cast grey metal with a thick bronze plate finish and retailed for a few dollars. He appropriately, if unimaginatively, named the company the McClelland Barclay Art Products Corporation. Although one can still find these Barclay products in flea markets, they never brought the artist/illustrator very much income. In some ways, this undertaking reminds one of Maxfield Parrish’s notion of a ‘businessman with a brush,’ as Barclay tried to emulate Parrish. However, Parrish licensed his images for a one-time use only while McClelland Barclay did not license, but rather was his own client and product designer.
McClelland Barclay got into movie poster illustrations and became known as one of two artists who first painted Betty Grable, the most famous of all the WWII pin-up girls. He painted movie posters for Paramount Pictures and Twentieth-Century Fox and was well known in Hollywood during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s for his portraits of beautiful starlets, just prior to his enlistment in the service. After enlisting, his posters and camouflage designs for the armed forces earned him a Naval commission for which he was quite proud.
Unfortunately, Lt. Commander McClelland Barclay was reported missing in action in the Solomon Islands, when the LST (Landing Ship, Tank an amphibious vessel) he was on was torpedoed by the Japanese Navy.