American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:     John Edward Costigan
Artist Dates:       1888 - 1972
Into the Woods
Painting Date:    Undated
Oil on Artist Board
Signed Lower Right
Museum Collection
Size Unframed:    22 x 24
Frame Condition: Mint Reproduction
Artist Best Price:  $43,750
Offered At:          
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.

The Artist ca. 1935
Recent Auction Sale over $27,000
Pastoral but More Jungian than Arcadian
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 Costiganís 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 Artistís 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.
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