David McClure was born in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire in 1926. He studied at both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities before entering Edinburgh College of Art, where he was influenced by major artists such as Anne Redpath, William Gillies, John Maxwell and Robert Henderson Blyth. After graduating in the early 1950s, he began teaching at the College, remaining there until 1955, when an Andrew Grant Fellowship allowed an extended period painting in Europe. From 1957, invited by Alberto Morrocco, he taught at Dundee College of Art until he retired as Head of Painting in 1985.
McClure was a sumptuous and adventurist colourist, often working with an eye to French Post-Impressionist exemplars. Particularly well known for his still lives, nudes and landscapes, he exhibited worldwide throughout his career having spent significant periods painting in Spain, Italy, Sicily and Norway.