Elected ARSA: 11 November 1863

Elected RSA: 10 February 1871

J. M. Barclay was born at Perth in 1811. He received his education in the Academy of that city, having for a fellow-student Thomas Duncan, who became his intimate and lifelong friend. Barclay, who had early shown, a decided taste for drawing, was placed by his father in the office of a Civil Engineer, in the hope no doubt that full scope would be there afforded him for turning his artistic ability to practical account.


After some time spent in this employment it was abandoned to gratify an all-absorbing desire to be able to paint portraits, which in private he had been quietly practising, and for which he displayed consider¬able aptitude and ability. Shortly thereafter he came to Edinburgh, and, under Sir William Allan, studied assiduously in the Board of Trustees’ School, and painting occasional portraits.


Having acquired sufficient training and knowledge of his Art to enable him to set up as a professional Portrait Painter, he returned to his native city and rapidly got into notice and practice, meeting with great success for a number of years, nearly all the notables of the county having sat to him.


Ultimately he returned to Edinburgh, where he also received numerous commissions, painting many of the marked men of the day. Latterly, he produced several historical subjects, taken from Scottish history, such as the “Raid of Ruthven,” and others. His kindly disposition secured for him many friends, and by them many happy memories of J. M. Barclay will long be cherished.

 RSA Obituary, transcribed from the 1886 RSA Annual Report

Further Images

John Maclaren Barclay RSA (1811-86) Self-Portrait

Oil on canvas, around 1851, 90.6 x 70.9cm

Gifted by the Misses Barclay, daughters of the artist (1902) 1993.015