Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

McClelland Barclay

 (1891 - 1943)
McClelland Barclay was active/lived in Missouri, New York, California.  McClelland Barclay is known for illustration-female figure.

McClelland Barclay

Biography from the Archives of askART

"Colorful, talented, and seen all around town." In these words, LIFE magazine succinctly described the famous and flamboyant illustrator, McClelland Barclay.

Collectors of bronze, paper, magazine covers, or art featuring beautiful women, will almost certainly have seen examples of Barclay's bold and easily-identifiable work.

Barclay was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1891 and worked out of a studio in New York City, beginning in 1912.

Visible and patriotic, he served in the Navy in World War I. He created a memorable series of posters for the Red Cross, the military and other service organizations, receiving commendations and awards. He also designed Republican posters, and even managed to sneak pretty girls into those.

Barclay's work was in great demand and he produced covers and illustrations for almost all of the popular magazines of the 1920s and 30s, including COLLIERS, PICTORIAL REVIEW, COUNTRY LIFE, LADIES HOME JOURNAL, SATURDAY EVENING POST, REDBOOK, COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, COSMOPOLITAN, and others.

His most famous advertising campaign was for the Fisher Body Works. He began to produce illustrations for this series in the mid 1920s and it ran successfully through the 1930s. The first ads featured children and dogs; the famous Fisher body Girl was introduced by Barclay in 1930 when he was 37. The model was his second wife, who was only 19 at the time.

The Fisher Body Girl became as recognizable a fixture as the earlier "Gibson Girl", but alas, the Barclay's marriage did not last as long as the campaign. In 1933, Mrs. Barclay had fallen by the wayside, and in 1936, McClelland had picked up a new fiancé, model Virginia Moore who was only 22.

In the late 1930s, Barclay established the McClelland Barclay Art Products Corporation in order to produce utilitarian composite figures on a large scale. These items included individual standing animal figures, ashtrays adorned with dogs or horses, bookends, boxes and other articles for home and office use. Made of white metal coated with a thick bronze plate, they were signed with the artist's name and sometimes with other marks or copyright designations. Advertising for Barclay's small bronze dog figures were seen as early as 1930 which suggests that his attempts at commercial sculpture predate the formation of his company. In 1938, 3 inch figures could be purchased for as little as $5.00!

In 1941, Barclay returned to military service in the Navy as a procurement and recruiting officer, moving eventually to a division where his artistic talents could be better utilized the War Arts Corp. Working steadily, he recorded the war around him, the people, and other aspects of his daily existence in the Pacific. Some of these canvases were produced for promotional purposes, while others were personal or commissioned works.

"On July 23, 1943, Lt. Commander McClelland Barclay was reported missing in action aboard an LST that was torpedoed in the Solomon Sea," notes Donna Newton in her publication, THE SCOTTIE SAMPLER, Summer, 1986. "He was honored posthumously with the Purple Heart in 1944 and on the third anniversary of his death, the McClelland Barclay Fund for Art was established to aid American artists."

With the passing of McClelland Barclay, the art world lost a colorful, talented, restless character. Barclay figures have been reproduced by others, so take care to inspect anything you anticipate buying, as originals bear the artist's signature on the underside.

Michael Taylor

Biography from the Archives of askART

The following biography was submitted in August of 2006 by the American Illustrators Gallery:

McClelland Barclay (1891-1943)

McClelland Barclay was born in 1891, in St. Louis, Missouri, and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, moving to New York City in 1912, in order to make his way in the art world and to 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 since he needed income having refused help from his prominent family in St. Louis.  Barclay simply wanted to "make it on his own".  After a single year of study he garnered several important commissions and his work was soon gracing the covers of several national publications.  One commission led to another and his career was launched.  During the 1920's and 30's, McClelland Barclay's images were selected for use by art directors for the nation's most popular periodicals: Colliers, Country Gentleman, Redbook, Pictorial Review, Coronet, Country Life, Saturday Evening Post, The 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, among others.

In the late 1930's, Barclay 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 each fabricated out of cast grey metal with a thick bronze plate finish and they retailed for just 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. Whereas Parrish licensed his images for a one-time use only, McClelland Barclay did not license, but rather was his own client and the 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 the 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 he was on was torpedoed by the Japanese Navy.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in St Louis, MO on May 9, 1891, Barclay studied in NYC at the Art Students League.  He was a resident of Los Angeles in 1932 but then returned to NYC where he illustrated for Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and others.

While serving in WWII, his life ended when his ship was torpedoed on July 18, 1943.

Exh: Stendahl Gallery (LA), 1932. In: Orange Co. (CA) Museum.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who's Who in American Art 1940.

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Illustration House
McCLELLAND BARCLAY (1891-1943) was appointed a Lieutenant Commander, United States Naval Reserve, during World War II and contributed many posters, illustrations and officer portraits for the Navy before being reported missing in action, in the Pacific theatre, aboard an L. S. T. which was torpedoed.

Before the war, Barclay was most noted for his ability to paint strikingly beautiful women, boldly colored and outlined, best exemplified by his series for General Motors illustrating the slogan, "Body by Fisher," and on numerous magazine covers, such as "The Saturday Evening Post", and "Pictorial Review".

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Barclay was a student of H. C. Ives, George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty. He was a member of the Artists Guild, the Art Students League of New York and the Society of Illustrators.

From the time he married in 1930 onward, he produced numerous sculptures often festooned with animals. These were then manufactured out of metal in a wide variety of utilitarian and decorative household objects, such as bowls, boxes, trays, pins, bookends and wall hangings by the McClelland Barclay Art Company.

In 1944 Barclay was awarded the Art Directors Club Medal posthumously, "in recognition of his long and distinguished record in editorial illustration and advertising art and in honor of his devotion and meritorious service to his country as a commissioned officer of the United States Navy."

Walt Reed, Illustration House, New York City

Biography from The Navy Museum-US Navy Art Collection
An accomplished painter, illustrator, sculptor and jewelry designer, McClelland Barclay had developed a very successful art career by the time he became a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve in 1938.

Barclay was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1891 and received his education at several different art schools.  At the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts (now the School of Art, Washington University in St. Louis), he studied design with the energetic Halsey Cooley Ives, the founding director of that institution. At the Art Students League in New York, he studied figure drawing with George B. Bridgman and illustration with Thomas Fogarty, both highly regarded artists and lecturers. Barclay also spent time at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Art Institute of Chicago.

He became an active member of the Art Students League, the Chicago Art Club, the Society of Illustrators, the Association of Arts and Industries, and the Artists Guild.

His illustrations appeared on the covers of "Ladies' Home Journal", "Saturday Evening Post", "Cosmopolitan" and other well-known magazines.  His images of fashionable women for General Motors' "Body by Fisher" advertising campaign made Barclay's work recognizable to virtually every magazine reader in the country. He also illustrated advertisements for Whitman's Chocolates, Texaco Oil, Camel and Chesterfield cigarettes.

His reputation as a creator of stylish, striking women landed him one of the judging positions of the 1935 Miss America pageant. During the 1920s and 30s, Barclay also enjoyed success as a sculptor and as a designer of art-deco costume jewelry.

Barclay's first connection with the Navy came during World War I when he was awarded the Navy Poster Prize by the Committee on National Preparedness, 1917, for his poster "Fill the Breach." The following year, he worked on Naval camouflage under William Andrew Mackay, Chief of the New York District Emergency Fleet Corporation. He renewed his naval connection on 13 June 1938, when he was appointed Assistant Naval Constructor with the rank of Lieutenant, USNR. In mid-1940, Barclay prepared designs for experimental camouflage for different types of Navy combat aircraft. Evaluation tests, however, showed that pattern camouflage was of little, if any, use for the aircraft. On October 19, 1940, Barclay reported for active duty. He served in the New York Recruiting Office, designing posters over the next two and a half years that would become some of the Navy's most popular recruiting images of World War II.

With the entrance of the United States into the war in 1941, he volunteered to become a combat artist. Though not accepted as a part of the official Combat Art Section, he fulfilled similar functions through the Recruiting Office. LCDR Barclay made short tours of duty in both the Atlantic and the Pacific on the U.S.S. Arkansas (BB-33), U.S.S. Pennsylvania (BB-38), U.S.S. Honolulu (CL-48), and U.S.S. Maryland (BB-46). On 18 July 1943, Barclay was aboard LST-342 (Group 14, Flotilla 5) when it was torpedoed by Japanese submarine Ro-106 at 1:30 a.m. He had been on board since the first of the month, sketching and taking photographs, during which time LST-342 had been carrying ammunition and supplies to Rendova, New Georgia in the Solomon Islands from Guadalcanal. The torpedo struck the aft portion of the ship where officers and others, including Barclay, were berthed. The stern sank immediately. Barclay, along with most of the crew, perished.

The bow of the LST remained afloat and was towed to a beach on the island of Ghavutu so that any useable equipment could be salvaged. Remains of the ship are still rusting there today.

Barclay was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal, and entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic- Pacific Area Campaign Medal; the American Area Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.In 1944, McClelland Barclay was awarded the Art Directors Club Medal posthumously, "in recognition of his long and distinguished record in editorial illustration and advertising art and in honor of his devotion and meritorious service to his country as a commissioned officer of the United States Navy." As recently as 1995, the Society of Illustrators inducted Barclay into their Hall of Fame.

Source: Press Releases of U.S. Navy in McClelland Barclay file at the Navy Collection; and Naval Historical Center.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday
Subject to Copyright

About  McClelland Barclay

Born:  1891 - St. Louis, Missouri
Died:   1943 - Solomon Islands, Southwest Pacific
Known for:  illustration-female figure