Cartoons by Leland S. McClelland: A Retrospective Exhibition


February 28, 2000 - May 26, 2000


Reading Room Gallery
27 W. 17th Avenue Mall
Columbus Ohio

Because he is so well-known as a watercolorist, many may be surprised to know that Leland S. McClelland’s first ambition was to be a cartoonist. Drawing Attention: Pen Stroke and Perspectives from Great Lakes Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society published in 1997 includes the following autobiographical statement:

“From the time I was old enough to read the funnies I wanted to be a cartoonist on the Columbus Citizen, one of the two afternoon newspapers in the city at that time. I didn’t want to be on the Chicago Tribune or any other big papers – just the Citizen. In the summer between my two years of studying art and cartooning at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, I took my samples in to the managing editor of the Citizen. He liked what he saw and hired me for the summer, even though I wasn’t all that good. He held the job open for me for the next year until I finished at the CAFA. I held the job until the paper went the way that so many papers did – it folded in 1959. I went to work for the city’s largest ad agency and stayed until 1964 when I quit and opened my own studio. When I left the Citizen, I started to paint watercolors which I did until I retired. I’ve always loved cartooning and cartoonists – they’re my kind of people. I’ll always consider myself a cartoonist first and something else second. “

Leland Shank McClelland was born in Columbus on May 23, 1914, the son of C. P. McClelland, the probate court judge, and Grace Shank, a homemaker. He is a graduate of East High School and attended Ohio State University before transferring to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where he graduated in 1936. He married Olga Anne Schlesinger, his high school sweetheart in 1937, and they had a daughter, Mary Susan, and a son, Jeffrey Lee. Mrs. McClelland died in 1987, shortly after the couple celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

After his cartooning job at the Columbus Citizen ended, McClelland taught himself to watercolor. A prolific artist, he was known for completing three paintings a week for twenty-five years prior to his retirement in 1994. His paintings are in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art, Capital University’s Schumacher Gallery, the Zanesville Art Institute as well as in the homes of many central Ohioans. Collections of his original cartoons are held at the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library and the Columbus College of Art and Design, where he taught for sixteen years. He was a founder of the Bexley Area Art Guild and the Central Ohio Watercolor Society. He also served for ten years as Director of Fine Arts at the Ohio State Fair. McClelland was very active in the Columbus community serving as president of the Columbus Art League, Arts Council of Columbus, Downtown Lions Club, and Athletic club.

McClelland’s Cartoon Parade was part of a long tradition among Columbus cartoonists that originated with Billy Ireland’s Passing Show. Each Sunday the newspaper devoted a full-page cartoon to goings-on in the community and, in McClelland’s case, the growth and change in post-war Columbus. As I remember It was a somewhat nostalgic panel cartoon series in which the cartoonist reflected on his childhood and past events. Both features were done with crisp line and sure hand of an expert, and each reveals McClelland’s perspective on life and his affection for central Ohio. Occasionally in Cartoon Parade he ventured into the area of political commentary, but always with gentle humor. For almost twenty-three years, Leland S. McClelland’s cartoons chronicled and commented on his world. We are richer for this legacy.