James Trumbull McClellan (1910 - 2005)

For many years, James McClellan's mahogany carved relief doors graced the Gloucester, MA, Sawyer Free Library’s main and children’s entrances. Poseidon riding his chariot and his son Triton blowing his conch shell may today be viewed at Gloucester’s Cape Ann Historical Museum in the Permanent Collection with other of McClellan’s work alongside that of Gloucester sculptors George Demetrios, Walker Hancock, and Paul Manship with whom McClellan apprenticed in the 1930s. 

Originally a painter like his mother, Frances Packard McClellan, at age 21 James McClellan began to sculpt and never looked back. “I like mythology because, in your interpretations, you can make up what you want to. I like the idea of different gods for different tasks. It seems a lot less cumbersome than having one god to take care of everything. I’m also a great believer in trolls. They’re protectors. When my daughter was little, she was afraid of the woods behind our house because she thought monsters were there. I felt there was a troll there named ‘Trollo.’  I carved a likeness of him for my daughter so she could see the protector of the woods. She was not afraid anymore.”

James T. McClellan was born on a farm estate in Haverhill, MA, on June 27, 1910, the fourth of six children of Frances Packard McClellan and Percy Webb McClellan, a relative of Civil War General George B. McClellan. Raised on Orchard Street in Andover, MA, James McClellan attended Governor Dummer Academy and then M.I.T. before moving to Folly Cove on Cape Ann to study sculpture with master teacher George Demetrios. For decades McClellan made his living and supported his family selling insurance, building the Annisquam River bridge for Route 128 at Gloucester’s Grant Circle, working in boatyards, or restoring antique furniture. He was only able during those years to sculpt on Sundays. An Ipswich resident since 1947, by the mid-1960s and until fall 2004 McClellan was sculpting full time on commission from his self-built studio in the loft of the huge barn overlooking his self-dug pond, his geese and migratory birds, his Airedale terrier, his small red house with the date 1617 that he painted on its chimney and the grape arbor and blueberry bushes he cultivated around the back.

Private and corporate collections of McClellan’s work span Marin County, CA, Huntsville, AL, Aspen, CO, Garrison, NY, and New England. As organ pipe decorations carved for C. B. Fisk, Inc., The Noack Organ Company, and The Andover Organ Company, his work may also be found in churches in Washington state, Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, including Boston’s Old West Church and St. Stephen’s Church. Twice winner of the Prix de Rome Competition, McClellan exhibited his sculpture across Boston and its North Shore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Loveland, CO.

Creating both in- and outdoor realistic installations in wood — ebony, teak, antique mahogany, black walnut, cherry, apple — iron, stone, lead, ceramic, brass, gold leafing and polychrome, James McClellan’s subjects included people, mermaids, dragons, griffons, phoenixes, sea monsters, seahorses, birds of prey, lions, Norse and Greek mythological figures, “Hardradi” (the Ruthless) Viking king Harald Sigurdsson and his warriors, Jormangund Midgard Serpent, the signs and animals of the zodiac, and all manner of birds, ungulates, amphibians, fish,  insects. These took the forms of heads, torsos, high and low relief figures in action, ships’ figureheads, armillary spheres and sundials, fountains, bird baths, weathervanes, windmills, furniture.      

Contributions in McClellan's name may be made to the
Cape Ann Historical Museum.

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