James E McClees, founder of Mc Clees Galleries, was born in 1821 in Chester City, Pennsylvania.  He began his career in 1844 working as a photographer for M. P. Simmons. In 1845, he opened his first dauerreian shop with partner Washington L. Germon at 80 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. The gallery moved several times along Chestnut Street between the1850s and1860s.


In 1853 Mc Clees purchased Whipple’s patent for making crystalotypes (salt prints from albumen negatives).  After taking lessons from John W. Black in Boston, he wrote a 40 page pamphlet entitled “Elements of Photography” which described his photographic processes.


By the late 1850s, Mc Clees & Co. was a thriving business. Dubbed “The Philadelphia Photographic Imporium”,  McClees employed 14 people including 6 artists and had a thriving mail order business.

In 1867, James McClees became a dealer and collector of oil paintings.
Later, his son  took over the gallery and ran it until his retirement in 1920.



NOTABLE  EXHIBITIONS


1916: “Philadelphia’s First Exhibition of Advanced Modern Art"


1930: David Paige

Turkish-born artist, David Paige exhibited his series of paintings of the exploits of Admiral Byrd and expedition to Antarctica.  Although he had never been to the there, he was able to paint the region from descriptions.


1923:  Mary Cassatt

1924:  Mary Cassatt

1931:  Mary Cassatt


1932:  French Art

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McClees was the first gallery in America to represent Mary Cassatt while she lived in France.  She participated in exhibits in 1923, 1924, 1931, and in an exhibition of French art in April, 1932.  The survey of French  painting covered 3 generations of artists including Rococo and Claude Jean Baptiste Horn, Peirre Bonnard and,Andre Dunoyer de Segozac, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne,Renoir, Van Gogh and Seurat.


1933: Walter Baum

The Pennsylvania Impressionist, Walter Emerson Baum, had his first one man show at the gallery. On viewwere 38 works, mostly landscapes that he painted in the preceding 3 years.  He received good reviews from the Philadelphia papers. The Inquirer referred to him as the “artist, critic, and arch-apostle,
in his art, to the countryside of Bucks, Montgomery, Berks, and Lehigh
counties, where, in truth, much simple homely beauty is to be found. He
has a fine flair for those atmospheric differences . . . among the
seasons.” 

1944: Peale Family Exhibition