"For almost forty years Robert M. Cunningham has made his indelible mark on the field of illustration with his unique sense of abstract composition, color and use of light."* This is how Wendell Minor, past President of the Society of Illustrators (1989-91) and Hall of Fame Committee member, described Bob's work and contribution to illustration.
Bob's renowned personal approach to illustration is often compared to the painters Edward Hopper and Richard Diebenkorn. He was inspired by them as well as others like Paul Gauguin, who was one of his favorites. But his wife Jean also served as Bob's muse. She was a respected fashion illustrator who stood next to Bob and encouraged him to be unique. It was Jean who took Bob to the Bahamas to visit her cousin on the island of Eleuthera, where he was inspired to flatten and simplify his images and work in a high-key palette that singularly solidified his style.
I had the pleasure and honor to get to know both Bob and Jean over a period of 15 years during occasional lunches in their 100 year-old farm house in Connecticut. I'm happy to call them beloved friends. He was one of the most honest and humble men that I have had the pleasure to meet. Jean and Bob lived a simple life. I rarely saw him out of his daily attire: T-shirt (a sweatshirt in winter) jeans and tennis shoes. His simple life began in the heartland of Kansas, the place of his birth. As a young adult he lived in a fourth floor walk-up in New York City's Greenwich Village. As his career progressed, he and Jean moved to that small farmhouse in the beautiful back country of western Connecticut surrounded by lavish gardens, the sound of birds and a pond that dominates the backyard.
In honor of our friendship and my unwavering respect for him and his work I've created this web site. Bob was never a big self promoter, in fact he never had an agent. He let his work speak for itself. Following that lead, I want to continue to let his artwork speak and influence future artists and illustrators by exhibiting his work here.
james e. ransome
* Illustrators 40th Annual of American Illustration. Society of Illustrators, 1998.