Saturday, August 25, 2007

John Edward Costigan -- Artist

Many in our class saw John Costigan painting some of his pictures near the Hackensack Creek near where the present golf course is located. He was commissioned to paint three paintings that hung in the New Central Theater for many years.

John Costigan was born of Irish-American parents in Providence, Rhode Island, February 29, 1888. He was a cousin of the noted American showman, George M. Cohan, whose parents brought the young Costigan to New York City and were instrumental in starting him on a career in the visual arts. They were less successful in encouraging him to pursue formal studies at the Art Students League (where, however, he later taught) than in exposing him to the commercial art world through the job they had gotten him with the New York lithographing firm that made their theatrical posters.

At the H. C. Miner Lithographing Company, Costigan worked his way up from his entry job as a pressroom helper, through various apprenticeships, to the position of sketch artist. In the latter capacity he was an uncredited designer of posters for the Ziegfeld Follies and for numerous silent films. Meanwhile, he had supplemented his very meager formal studies in the fine arts with a self-teaching discipline that led to his first professional recognition in 1920 with the receipt of prizes for an oil painting and watercolor in separate New York exhibitions.

A year earlier, Costigan had wed professional model Ida Blessin, with whom he established residence and began raising a family in the sleepy little rural New York hamlet of Orangeburg, the setting for the many idyllic farm landscapes and wood interiors with which he was to become identified in a career that would span half a century.

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