McClelland Barclay

Artist's Biography

A Fresh Breeze.

Oil on canvas, 1922.
Canvas size 18 x 69 1/2" (45.7 x 176.5 cm).
Good condition and color overall, restoration was done on the painting in 2016, some in-painting mostly in the sky area where the paint was crazing.
LOCATION: New York City

Inventory Number: 92674
Price: $75,000.00
Publisher :
Signed lower left "McClelland Barclay."

Discovered in a house built by the artist and his first wife (in Gloucester, Massachusetts). “A Fresh Breeze” is a self-portrait of the artist, posed with his first wife, on an afternoon sail.

This large work, painted in 1922, perfectly captures the energy and exuberant optimism of the Jazz Age and the decade that came to be known as the Roaring Twenties. It’s billboard format, probably for use in a roadside advertisement commission, subliminally hints at the speed and freedom associated with this period’s historic arrival of the wide-scale use of the automobile that so transposed American life.

The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was noted by a general feeling of novelty, associated with modernity and a breaking from traditions. The era emphasized the social, artistic, and cultural dynamism of the time. Jazz music blossomed. The flapper redefined modern womanhood, as women asserted themselves and their rights to enjoy themselves the way men did. Art deco peaked. The U.S. gained dominance in world finance.

Barclay’s first wife Nan, a former debutante from Washington, D.C. society, (and his cousin) whom he married in 1916, is the model for the woman beside him. A stunning Titian-haired redhead, she is the muse that inspired his career-long use of red heads in his illustration work.

She is the epitome of the Flapper, the free-spirited woman who emerged after the First World War, with the relative dearth of men of that generation because of the war, who asserted themselves in the period of new-found suffrage. Known to have a love of smoking, drinking and dancing, she perfectly epitomizes the term, the type described in 1920 lecture in Britain, by Dr. R. Murray-Leslie as ”..... the social butterfly type....the frivolous, scantily clad, jazzy flapper, irresponsible and undisciplined, to whom dance, a new hat, or a man with a car, were more important than the fate of nations.”

“A Fresh Breeze” fits with the emergence of the American Illustration to become a unique, distinctly American art form. Originally serving to illuminate scenes from popular novels and stories in published books and magazines, most notably in the work of Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, the form evolved with its role as an advertising tool, to become the purveyor of fantasy and escape, where the imagination can transform life into a better ideal place. It was this boom in commerce and the associative advertising, in a thriving economy, which engendered the high form of this art and its deep and permanent imprinting into the American psyche.

“A Fresh Breeze”, marvelously displays Barclay’s own identifying theme of the stunning redhead, a theme that he continued for the rest of his tragically short career. This theme brought him real national fame with the “Fisher Body Girl” campaign for General Motors and the auto industry in 1930, and continued in his Hollywood movie posters of stars and starlets in the 30s, but none of his works convey it better than this depiction of himself and his wife enjoying a sport he loved dearly, this wonderfully evocative Jazz-Age masterpiece, “A Fresh Breeze”.
20th Century Subjects , Marine , Watercolors, Drawings & Paintings