American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:     John Edward Costigan
Artist Dates:       1888 - 1972
Title:                  Into the Woods
Painting Date:    Undated
Medium:            Oil on Artist Board
Signature:            Signed Lower Right
Provenance:        Museum Collection
Condition:           Excellent
Size Unframed:    22 x 24
Frame Condition: Mint Reproduction
Artist Best Price:  $43,750
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Pastoral but More Jungian than Arcadian
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Recent Auction Sale over $27,000
The Artist ca. 1935
Curator's Comment: Deaccession by a New Jersey museum with an important American
collection enabled us to snag this impressionist Costigan masterpiece for our clients. "Into the Woods"
is one of the artist's pure landscapes, rich in his bright tell-tale reds that signify the teeming fertility
of the forest. The woods are alive with suffused organic red hues and intertwined tree trunk arteries
and branching veins. Costigan equated painting "with what comes off the land--be it livestock or art"--
meaning the artistic process is one of natural transformation.  We prefer this composition because its
single focus is uncomplicated by the presence of his frequent talismans, be they robed goat herding
women or towel-draped women and children seen bathing nude at forest pools--archetypes that suggest
his pastoral woods are more Jungian than Arcadian. Costigan began with the palette knife and later
learned to load his brush heavily, striking the canvas with short forceful strokes. His brushwork is
close to that of George Luks, and Costigan was closest to Luks among the other illustrators in the
Eight. The imposto helps the forest radiate brilliantly with gleaming  light that directs the eye to the
dark heart of nature where image can become archetypal imago. The actual environs surround
Costigan's Orangeburg, New York farm, and are akin to the American neo-gothic New York state
locales of novelists Joyce Carol Oates and John Gardner. Indeed Costigan would have been the perfect
illustrator for Gardner's "Nickel Mountain," with its supernatural goat lady. These writers understood,
as Costigan's genius shows, that the woods are a space of transformation. Characters out of Grimm's
fairy tales go into the woods first to hide and then to find the resources needed to empower identity.
John Edward Costigan was born in Providence, Rhode Island on 29 February 1888. He and four sisters
were orphaned and at 15 Costigan was taken to New York to be raised by his aunt and uncle, the
parents of showman and songwriter, George M. Cohan. They were instrumental in interesting him in a
career in the visual arts, though less successful in encouraging his formal art studies at the Art
Students League. Costigan got a job at the H.C. Miner Lithographing Company, a lithographing firm
that made their own theatrical posters. Costigan worked his way from an entry-level job as a pressroom
helper, through various apprenticeships, finally to the position of sketch artist. As a sketch artist,
Costigan was the uncredited designer of posters for the Zeigfeld Follies and for a number of silent films
over the course of twenty-two years at the firm. He served in the infantry in World War I, and during
World War II, he worked the night shift as a machine operator in a defense plant while continuing to
paint and etch by day.

In 1919, he married professional model, Ida Blessin and they established a residence in Orangeburg,
NY, the setting for the farm landscapes and forest interior with which Costigan was to become
identified. His self-taught approach earned his first professional recognition in 1920 when he received
prizes at two separate New York exhibitions. In 1922 Costigan won the Peterson Purchase prize of the
Art Institute of Chicago.  His first solo show was in 1924 at the Rehn Gallery in New York City and was
followed three years later, by another at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Smithsonian Institute
honored him with an exclusive exhibition in 1937. The Corcoran Gallery followed in 1941.  He won prize
after prize at Salmagundi where he was close to a number of painters who shared his backgfround in
lithography. In 1968 a 50-year retrospective of Costigan's work was mounted by the Paine Art Center
and Arboretum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Museums and private collections throughout the country
loaned their oils, watercolors and prints for the exhibition and the Smithsonian gave it a national tour.  
In 1972 Costigan received his final prestigious award, the Benjamin West Clinedinst Medal of the
Artist’s Fellowship. He died months later of pneumonia in Nyack,  New York. Today, he is strong in
many collections, particularly the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress holds 22 works by Costigan
in its permanent collection.