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 John Edward Costigan  (1888 - 1972)

About: John Edward Costigan


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Lived/Active: New York/Rhode Island      Known for: lithography sketch artist, pastoral theme impressionist painting

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BIOGRAPHY for John Costigan
1888 (Providence, Rhode Island)
1972 (Nyack, New York)

New York/Rhode Island

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lithography sketch artist, pastoral theme impressionist painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Part of the following biography was contributed by Dan Costigan, son of the artist.

A native of Providence, Rhode Island, John Costigan was a skilled landscape and figure painter who disdained portraits because "the subjects want flattering pictures."

He was orphaned and raised in New York by his aunt and uncle, the parents of songwriter, George M. Cohan.  Mainly self-taught, Costigan studied briefly at the Art Students League and worked as a lithographer of theater posters.  From that job he learned the printing processes that he later used in his many etchings.  He began making his name in the fine arts in 1920, and throughout the decade, reaped numerous important prizes for his oils, watercolors and prints.

He served in the infantry in World War I and supported himself during the Depression with magazine illustration.  For about a year during World War II, to remain financially solvent, he worked the night shift as a machine operator in a defense plant while continuing to paint and etch by day.

In the late 1960s, he enjoyed a revival of interest in his fine arts talents when more than 50 pieces were borrowed from museums and private collections to be toured nationally in a Smithsonian-sponsored Costigan retrospective.

Biography from Williams American Art Galleries:
John Edwards Costigan was born in Providence, Rhode Island on 29 February 1888. He differed from many other successful artists in that he was primarily self-taught yet he created a highly individualized style of painting reminiscent of the Impressionists.

After finishing public school, Costigan moved to New York City where he would spend the next twenty-two years as a sketch artist for H. Miner Lithography Co.  He moved with his wife, model Ida Blessin, to the small New York town of Orangeburg where he dedicated his life to his art.  His life in Orangeburg was well suited to his artistic philosophy.  As art historian Michael Zellman in 300 Years of American Art remarked: “[his] paintings have a unity of subject matter, texture and emotional feeling which invites the viewer to participate and learn.”

Costigan was extremely interested in painting the continuance of nature and focused his work on genre and pastoral scenes set on his rural farm.  His work often highlights the joy of motherhood, security of childhood and a rapport with animals and nature.  He was devoted to the woods around his home and regarded the city only as “a market place for what comes off the land, be it livestock or art.”

Throughout his lifetime Costigan received numerous awards and his work is in museum collections across the country.    On 5 August 1972, after a long illustrious career, Costigan died of pneumonia in Nyack, New York.

Biography from The Caldwell Gallery - IV:
John Costigan, born in 1888, was a largely self-taught "pastoralist", painting scenes of everyday life on rural farms of upstate New York. He also worked as a sketch artist for H. Miner Lithography Company for 22 years. Costigan started out painting with the palette-knife. His later work was executed by loading the brush with paint and placing short dabs of color onto the canvas. From a distance, all variations on the surface blend together, giving an Impressionistic feel.

He was well known for the unity of his subject matter, painting texture, and the emotions his subject matter evoked. His paintings often reflected the joys of motherhood and idyllic country living.

In 1968 a 50-year Costigan retrospective was exhibited and toured by the Smithsonian Institute.

Costigan died of pneumonia in 1972, having painted for more than fifty years of his life.

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