top of page

Gallery Database:

John E. Costigan (1888-1972). "Into the Woods," oil on artist board, 22 x 24, signed. Museum deaccession label



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 impasto helps the forest radiate brilliantly with gleaming  light that directs the eye to the dark heart of nature where image can become archetypal imago.


Pastoral but More Jungian than Arcadian


The Artist ca. 1935


Recent Auction Sale at $45,000

John Edward Costigan was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He and four sisters were orphaned young, 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 firm that made 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 Ziegfeld 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 interiors 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. We were lucky to obtain this painting and are very proud of it--thinking it Costigan's masterpiece.

bottom of page