At about 13 years of age at Manumit, Pawling, NY, boarding school. I came across a framed copy of Rembrandt’s etching, “Christ healing before the cave” (?) Found it in a local barn-attic. I prized it highly, hung it next to my bed for the two and half years I was there. Knew nothing of art, never been to a museum, gallery, nor had I seen even an “art book of reproductions.” But I was really moved, and impressed by this “drawing.” Didn’t know what an etching was. I was in no way religious, rather the opposite. The dark and light dramatic composition intrigued me no end. I particularly remember a lying dog in the foreground, beautifully drawn. I later acquired a fine crow-quill pen and tried endlessly to draw like Rembrandt. Mostly I drew wildlife scenes.
JAMES E. GAHAGAN 1927-1999
J ames E. Gahagan, an Abstract Expressionist painter who became one of the premier American colorists, died Wednesday, July 7, 1999 at his home in Woodbury, VT. He was 71.
Gahagan’s sensitivity to color relationships and the dynamics of spatial movement and tension developed during his years as Associate Director of the Hans Hofmann School and as Hofmann’s assistant during the creation of two major mosaics murals in New York City.
Born in Brooklyn, Gahagan became a moving force among his contemporaries in the Fifties, when he helped found the James Gallery in 1954. As a principal organizer and the first elected President of the Artist Tenants Association, Gahagan led a successful strike by artists to win zoning for artists’ lofts in New York in 1962, resulting in the establishment of Westbeth and other early artist’s buildings.
Gahagan taught painting at Pratt Institute (1965-1971), Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts (1968-1971), and Goddard College (1971-1979), where he became Chairman of the Art Department. He opened the James Gahagan School of Fine Arts in Woodbury, VT during the summers of 1971-1974. He was invited to be a Visiting Artist at Notre Dame University, IN (1978) and at Humboldt State University, CA (1989.)
He was invited to teach at the founding of the prestigious Vermont Studio Center (1984-1999) and in 1991-92 became the resident Artist/Critic at the International Art Workshop in New Zealand.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, Gahagan attended Goddard College, Plainfield, VT (1947-51) where he studied with Richard Lippold. He moved to New York, becoming involved with the then burgeoning abstract movement, joining Han Hofmann’s school shortly afterwards. He has exhibited extensively in New York, Provincetown, and periodic exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Paris. His work was chosen for s 1957 travelling exhibition to 64 nations, sponsored by the United Nations and selected by Art News for a 1959 exhibit of twelve Americans in Spoleto, Italy, the same year he was awarded a Longview Purchase Grant. Gahagan recently participated in the 1993 Copenhagen group show ” USA on Paper” in Denmark. His work is represented in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of art, New York, The Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, and the University of Art Museum in Berkley, among others. Currently his voice can be heard discussing the art of Hans Hofmann in a documentary running with the Hofmann exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He is survived by his wife, Pat deGogorza, his son Pavi, daughter Sharon, her husband Michael, granddaughter Michaela Halnon and sister Peggy Gahagan Spidel.