Vintage 1939 original gelatone print entitled Fishermen Three by John E. Costigan. Please peruse the information below to get a better feel on this artwork. The condition is good with heavy soiling to the lower right corner and side where someone had stored this in not the best of conditions. It is mounted (probably glued) onto a piece of grey cardboard and had a matte covering the border which was badly damaged so it has been removed. Despite all of this, with a good professional cleaning we feel this piece can be completely restored. The image size is 16.25 by 19.75 inches and 20.50 by 25 inches overall. The cardboard adds a bit of size also but a professional paper conservator can remove this if so desired by the next owner.
J.E.COSTIGAN, N.A. American Artist (1888-1972) John Edward (J.E.) Costigan was a celebrated American artist widely recognized for his work in three media —oil painting, watercolor and print (etchings and lithographs). It is estimated that, in a career spanning some 50 years, he produced about 500 oils, 250 watercolors, 400 drawings, over 130 etchings, 20 lithographs, and a smattering of pastels and mixed media. The “N.A.” usually suffixing the artist’s signature identifies him as an Academician in the National Academy of Design, a distinction with which he was honored by his peers in 1928. Photograph by Warren Inglese . ............ Despite failing eyesight, John Costigan continued to produce beautiful canvases until about a year before his death at age 84......... BACKGROUND 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. . ............ Costigan-designed cover of a 1920's Artist's and Models Costume Ball invitation. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS John Costigan’s first national recognition came in 1922 with his winning of the coveted Peterson Purchase prize of the Art Institute of Chicago for an oil, “Sheep at the Brook.” It marked the start of an unbroken winning streak that would gain him at least one important prize per year for the remainder of the decade. The nation’s art journalists and critics began to take notice, making him the recurring subject of newspaper features and magazine articles. The eminent author and critic Edgar Holger Cahill was just a fledgling reporter when he wrote his first feature, “John Costigan Carries the Flame,” for Shadowland Magazine in 1922. (Click here for an abridged bibliography of books and articles containing information about John Costigan and his work). Costigan had his first one-man show of paintings at the Rehn Gallery on New York’s 5th Avenue in November, 1924, to be followed less than three years later by another at the Art Institute of Chicago. . ............ In 1924, a 36-year-old John Costigan was fast approaching the pinnacle of his fine arts career..... In addition, Costigan’s work has been—and continues to be—included, side-by-side with that of some of America’s most high-profile artists, in museum and gallery exhibitions throughout the country. His renown had peaked in the early 1930s, by which time his work had been honored with nearly every major award then being bestowed in the fine arts and had been acquired for the permanent collections of several prestigious American museums, including New York’s Metropolitan (which only recently, in 1997, deaccessioned his “Wood Interior,” acquired in 1934). Although Costigan’s celebrity had ebbed by the late 1930s, the Smithsonian Institution saw fit in 1937 to host an exhibition exclusively of his etchings. And, in 1941, the Corcoran Gallery (also Washington, D.C.) similarly honored him for his watercolors. (Another Washington institution, the Library of Congress, today includes 22 Costigan etchings and lithographs in its permanent print collection.) With the market for his paintings having hit rock bottom during World War II, Costigan returned briefly to illustrating, mainly for Bluebook, a men’s pulp adventure magazine. A gradual revival of interest in his more serious work began at the end of the war, culminating in 1968 with the mounting of a 50-year Costigan retrospective at the Paine Art Center and Arboretum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Oils, watercolors and prints were borrowed from museums and private collections throughout the country, and the exhibition was subsequently toured nationally by the Smithsonian Institution. . ............ Costigan illustration for a 1940's Bluebook war tale........... John Costigan died of pneumonia in Nyack, NY, August 5, 1972, just months after receiving his final prestigious award —the Benjamin West Clinedinst Medal of the Artist’s Fellowship, Inc., presented in general recognition of his “...achievement of exceptional artistic merit...” in the various media he had mastered in the course of his career. Click here for a complete list of awards bestowed upon the artist during his career. CURRENT MARKET Typically six to eight Costigan works will show up at the major auction houses (Sotheby Parke Bernet, Christie’s, Skinner, Phillips, et al) in the course of a year, and currently—perhaps increasingly—even a greater number on eBay and other internet auction sites. Note that condition, size, eye appeal and various other factors can and do account for some wide price variations ($90,000 was the purchase price for a 1927, 49” x 60” oil of a figure group sold in 2006.) In recent years, John Costigan's talent and innovative style has gained increasing admiration among experts in the fine arts community. Although it is still possible to obtain Costigan paintings, etchings, lithographs, and watercolors at relatively affordable prices, the window of opportunity for collectors is closing as the quality and unique style of his work continues to gain the attention of gallery owners, museum curators, appraisers, and other experts in the field. Important information for collectors about reproductions... One of the best known Costigan titles in both watercolor and print is “Fishermen Three,” depicting three youths—a boy and two girls—fishing from a rock beside a stream. The 1938 etching was based on the c.1936 watercolor, making one a mirror image of the other (left and right reversed). Around 1939, a fine color reproduction of the watercolor was produced in a limited edition by the Associated American Artists (New York, NY) at approximately a 1:1 size ratio (16” x 20”) using a revolutionary patented process called Gelatone. It was one of a portfolio of 12 of these excellent reproductions by 12 renowned artists, including Thomas Benton and Grant Wood, which sold (then) for $80 per set or $7.50 per separate reproduction. These have been known to show up in sales by individuals on the internet. The prospective buyer needs to be aware that while the Gelatone “Fishermen Three” has its own intrinsic value, and is a handsome substitute for the original watercolor, the value gap is considerable. The etching version of “Fishermen Three” (artist’s actual plate size 8.9” x 11.9”), and two other Costigan prints—”Bathers” (actual size 8.9” x 11.9”) and “Jackie” (actual size 10.9” x 8.8”)—are faithfully reproduced in a popular collector book, “A Treasury of American Prints,” published by Simon & Schuster in 1939. The book was purposely designed to allow easy removal of the pages for framing, and so these reproductions may occasionally show up in sales, perhaps mistakenly presumed (by seller and buyer alike) to be actual prints. Like the Gelatone “Fishermen Three,” these fine reproductions do have real value, though obviously far from that of original signed prints. One clue to look for is image dimensions (if given) approx. 12% smaller for the reproduction than those from the artist’s actual plates. On the front of each print reproduction contained in the Simon & Schuster book is the abbreviation REPRO in small, light print at the lower left, and on the rear is a printed blurb about the artist and the particular work. The latter will, of course, not be readily visible if the item is sold framed.
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