James McLean was born in 1904 in the rural foothills of the North Carolina Mountains. McLean knew early on that he wanted to study art; however there were very few opportunities in North Carolina in those days. In 1923 the young artist answered an ad to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. His submission was accepted and he spent five years studying under noted artists Daniel Garber, Charles Garner and Joseph Pearson. A Cresson Scholarship allowed McLean to further travel and study in Italy, France and Germany.
On completing his education, McLean returned to North Carolina to open the Southern School of the Creative Arts in Raleigh in 1929. This early effort towards art education was short lived with the subsequent stock market crash and the Great Depression; however McLean continued to be active in teaching art throughout the rest of his career.
During the '30s McLean worked on a number of WPA projects including murals for universities, high schools, and libraries. McLean was the staff artist at WUNC TV for 12 years in the 1950s and 1960s and exhibited at PAFA, The Ogunquit Summer Art Show, the High Museum, and the NC State Art Society annual exhibitions. he also devoted time as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University. McLean was a major contributor and promoter of art in North Carolina. He leaves an impact and a legacy that cannot be measured.
The curator for this exhibition is Mr. Ed Alexander. He was a close friend and collector of McLean's work for many decades during his lifetime, and after McLean died Alexander was asked by the family to manage the collection. Gallery C is indebted to Mr. Alexander for his knowledge and expertise in selecting the artwork for this Retrospective exhibition. This show consists of paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sculpture that span over sixty years.
Click here to read a piece Mr. Alexander wrote about his personal experiences with Mr. McLean
Click here to read a biography of James Augustus McLean written by Dr. Everette James