john portrait

Photo - Michael Macgregor


John Cunningham RGI D.Litt.1926 - 1998

The vision of his paintings was an expression of the man.  John Cunningham was a large, charismatic character who loved life abundantly and whose paintings reflected his joy and passion for colour, displaying bold, confident brush-strokes along with subtle sensitivity. His landscapes and seascapes were all painted outdoors with only a few minor touches to be added in the studio. This gives his work a wonderful freshness and vitality with the immediacy of the moment captured. By going to the places, soaking up the vision and perspectives of the people who lived in those places, and painting the vision with a professional attention to its subtleties and variations, he produced a unique body of work. His landscapes are typified by a sense of connection to the earth itself, an honesty about the places depicted – nothing is sentimentalized or diminished – and a lavish generosity of engagement with colour, tone, shade and light. No one since McTaggart has been so attentive to nature’s constant restlessness in clouds, waves and wind, in grass and branches. He loved the justice of nature, its hard truths. He lived by them and knew their rightness and respected them.

Although he can be seen in a major tradition in Scottish art, he is nevertheless a painter whose approach was uniquely his own. Any work by John Cunningham is immediately identifiable at a glance and from a distance, and the spark of spontaneity and vitality in the execution is never lost in the final painting.  They are permanent components of it and form values that distinguish all his work.

All paintings copyright of Alan Riach © 2014