John Christman, 55, an artist and retired Department of Transportation aide, died of cancer Saturday in Annapolis, where he had lived since retiring in 1971.

Born in Cleveland, he showed art talent at an early age and was given instruction at the Cleveland Museum School of Fine Arts as a child.He studied further at the Columbus (Ohio) School of Fine Arts and the Stuart School of Design in Boston.

During World War II, Mr. Christman served with the Army Air Corps in the Pacific. After the war, he earned a degree in economics from the University of Miami in Florida.

He then spent a number of years painting in France and Switzerland. He worked in oils, doing landscapes, seascapes and portraits.

Over the year, his paintings were exhibited in Washington, New York and other cities. He also had one-man shows at Gibson Island, Md., and Rehobolt Beach, Del.

Mr. Chirstman joined the federal government in the mid-1950s. While working with the Commerce Department, he participated in a number of international trade fair exhibitions in such places as North Africa and Po.

He then worked for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and served on the Staffs of White House conferences on food, nutrition, medicare and other matters.

He was with the Transportation Department as a conference coordinator for about four years before retiring.

He is survived by his wife, Louise, and a son, Michael, of the home; another son, Garrett Tatum, of Arlington, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Christman, of Akron.