Wednesday, September 12, 2012

John McClelland (1919 - )

John McClelland was a mid-century illustrator whose work is perhaps somewhat less well known. But wonderful nonetheless!


McClelland was born in Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1919. He began his education at Alabama Polytechnic Institute and finished it at the Art Career School of New York. His illustration work first appeared in Collier's in 1947.


This work above and below, from various 1951 and 1952 issues of Woman's Day magazine, is representative of McClelland's experimentation with style and technique during the early period of his professional career.



Below, a series of illustrations from Cosmopolitan magazine from 1953 by John McClelland.


Once again, we see McClelland trying something a little different.


While none of what McClelland was attempting could be called wildly experimental...


... it still seems like he was not interested in settling for one way of doing things, as many other artists who found their comfort zone typically did.


Then, in August 1958, John McClelland did something dramatic!


What could have compelled John McClelland to transform himself with such a radical stylistic departure?


Was it a restless spirit? was it the encouragement of Cosmo's forward-thinking AD, Robert C. Atherton?


Or did McClelland, like so many other illustrators of the 1950s, sense that the more literal, realistic, painterly illustration styles were falling out of favour among magazine clients?


Whatever it was, for the next several years, John McClelland infused his work with a distinctly more graphic approach.


If this new direction was successful for the artist, I cannot say. I have too few examples of McClelland's work to get a good grasp on what his circumstances were at the time.


Walt Reed's book, The Illustrator in America, includes John McClelland's biography. Walt writes that McClelland went on to great success as a portrait artist. Later in his career he returned to his native Georgia - settling in Savannah - where he co-founded the Landings Art Association.

In the 1980s, McClelland won several awards for his paintings reproduced on collector's plates. He was still actively working around the year 2000, conducting occasional workshops and participating in regional exhibitions. I was not able to find any more recent information on the artist.


  1. oshean3:38 PM


  2. Anonymous9:26 PM

    He lived in my home town of New Canaan CT. His daughter Susan McClelland was my sister's best friend.

  3. No wonder you never get my comments. This site asked for my comment, which was long and involved.After I wrote a long and involved comment it erased the whole thing when I decided how to send it I am now re-posting that I am Susan McClelland and am sitting next to my father John McClelland! He was so thrilled to see this page! He is 95 and a stroke 3 years ago, so he does not paint anymore unfortunately. The illustration of the cat in the foreground and a couple in the background is hanging on the wall in front of me. Please contact me at or 912-660-7465. It would mean so much to my Dad!

    1. I just came across one of his plates and googled his name to find this page. I am Ralph McClelland IV and he is my grandfather's brother. I hope everyone is doing well

  4. Anonymous2:45 PM

    I have a wooden decopage ? a little girl blonde holding stuffed animal signed by john my dad born in 19 but was in junk business and got burned at 92 and died after fighting for amonth and now his son is throwing out everything of his collection of things from scraping to the dump and I can't stop him and am being kept from my mother I need a lawyer your lucky you have no siblings that are rude and mean

  5. This is a very long time after the original post. If you're still interested in John McClelland, text me.

    1. Hi I don't know if you are still active on this site but here mother had a picture in her this by your us called Olivia and it is a young girl with a green dress and a bonnet and she is holding flowers behind her back...I don't know how to send a picture to you here

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