Following in Hofmann’s footsteps, James Gahagan was an accomplished painter as well as a beloved teacher and mentor to others. Inspired by nature, his sensitivity to color relationships and spatial dynamics made him one of the most skillful American colorists.
Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Gahagan claimed that his serious interest in art did not manifest until he was in high school, though some of his earliest memories included selling large scale, hand-drawn renditions of Disney characters to his family members for twenty-five cents.
Gahagan’s ideas about color challenged the accepted norms of the day, even at an early age. Arguing emotionally with a high school art teacher about his use of "invented colors" in a landscape painting, he defended his artistic license: “To me it just seemed the natural thing to do. I just perceived color as beautiful and used it freely, even as I tried to capture the scene I was viewing or imagining.”