Claire Barclay (1968 - )

screenprint on paper

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    Beneath an assembly of layered, floating-like U-forms, the words ‘Wear the white flowers of a blameless life’ are presented in Claire Barclay’s two-part screenprint. One of two diptychs produced in 2012, it re-appropriates a slogan that was used by the Social Purity Movement. Aligned to temperance, an end to prostitution, and abolitionism, the movement was active in English-speaking countries between the late 1800s and early 1900s, and was championed by women’s suffrage groups. 

    Barclay was one of 21 women artists, commissioned in 2012, to produce new works to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Glasgow Women’s Library. For her prints, she found inspiration in the collection’s Jus Suffragii, the International Women’s Suffrage Newsletters and other related Suffragette memorabilia from the Library’s archives. Commenting on the words of the original slogan, Barclay observed:


    I am interested in their notion of a ‘blameless life’, when compared to the moral codes which underlie contemporary society, and the sense of hypocrisy and guilt which seems to pervade. The phrase suggests a romanticized ideal of an innate feminine innocence, symbolized by the white flower, sometimes worn by suffragettes. Comparisons between feminine virtue and the purity of nature is outdated and sometimes complacent, but these groups also left a legacy of their struggle for progressive moral and social change which we still find inspiring.

  • About the artist
    Born in Paisley, Claire Barclay is based in Glasgow. She studied at the Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1993. Since then, she has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally, working across mixed media. Her work explores themes such as the role of craft in contemporary art; contrasts between natural elements and man-made items; and the commoditisation of art as espoused by various lifestyle ideologies. In 2003 Barclay represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale; and her first retrospective exhibition opened at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh in 2009. She received a Paul Hamlyn Award from 2007-2009, and in 2010, exhibited 'Shadow Spans' at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London as a recipient of the Bloomberg Commission. Other solo exhibitions and commissions include: 'Tenuity' at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London (2021), 'Deep Spoils' at Mission Gallery, Swansea (2018); and 'Yield Point' at Tramway, Glasgow (2017).
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  • Details
    Number 10 in an edition of 10
    screenprint on paper
    height: 59.7 cm; width: 42 cm
    Purchased from Glasgow Women's Library, with funds raised from print sales from the Robson Orr TenTen Award, a GAC/Outset Annual Commission, March 2020
    Glasgow Women's Library, Glasgow, UK; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection
    GAC number