Written by Angela Gonzalez, Curatorial Intern
John E. Costigan was a self-taught painter and trained printer distinguished by his impressionistic style and affinity for bucolic scenes. Born on February 29, 1888, he was orphaned in adolescence. Taken in by his aunt and uncle, Costigan moved to New York City where he obtained a position at the H.C. Miner Lithographing Company. It was here that he learned about printing through various apprenticeships. Costigan was promoted to sketch artist where he was able to apply his artistic talent through designing posters.
Limited to only a few weeks, Costigan studied under William Merritt Chase and George Bridgman at the Art Student League. He stayed committed instead to a studio where illustrators and newspaper artists spent time sketching models in an informal atmosphere. In 1918, Costigan joined the army as a private and served in World War I. Upon returning from battle, Costigan married and moved to Orangeburg; a town situated by the Hudson River in New York. This setting would serve as inspiration for the pastoral landscapes that are prevalent subjects in Costigan’s work. He exhibited his oil and watercolor paintings and received an influx of awards.
Costigan’s body of work provides a look into the realities of his rural life. He focused on scenes of non-figural landscapes as well as compositions featuring bathers, mothers with children and single introspective figures. Characteristics of his style include use of impasto, short forceful brushstrokes and rich vibrant colors. In his work, The Bathers, Costigan provides a look into a luminescent scene of boldly colored figures filled with movement and atmosphere. This painting presents a notion of timelessness and an energetic look into the peaceful, utopian world of the pastoral.