John Cunningham was born in Lanarkshire in 1926. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art in the early 1940's under David Donaldson. After serving in the Scots Guards in the war (1944 - 1948) he returned to Glasgow School of Art where he later taught full time (1967 - 1985), becoming a Senior Lecturer shortly before his retirement in 1985.
He painted regularly in France, Italy and on the west coast of Scotland, particularly at Colonsay and Arndnamurchan. His landscapes and seascapes were all painted plein air, giving his work a freshness and vitality with the immediacy of the moment captured.
He was elected member of the Glasgow Institute and exhibited there and at the Royal Scottish Academy annually. He won both the MacFarlane Award and the Cargil Award.
His work is held in public collections including the Kelvingrove Gallery (Glasgow), the Hunterian Museum of Glasgow, Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde and Clydesdale Bank.