The 1843 Painting of Oliver Rice at age 75.
Mayfield Historical Society Acquires Long-forgotten Painting
The Mayfield Historical Society is thrilled to announce the recent acquisition of an 1843 oil painting of Mr. Oliver Rice, the owner and builder of the 1810 Rice Homestead and his 1790 homesteading cabin on Riceville Road in Mayfield, New York.
The related buildings and grounds now serve as the Society’s museum which is listed on both the State and National Historical Registries.
Oliver Rice served in the Revolutionary War and afterward came to the Mayfield area where he purchased property, raised a family, and set up a fulling mill on the Mayfield Creek. Along with being appointed the area’s first postmaster, he was also involved in establishing Riceville’s school and Masonic Lodge and became a prominent figure in the community. The Rice Family owned the property for 198 years. In 1992, the Mayfield Historical Society purchased the property which contained many Rice Family possessions and is still in contact with the Rice Family to this day.
The Rice Family and the Mayfield Historical Society did not know this portrait existed.
A year ago, on May 8, 2022, Ms. Jennifer Lanagan-Robison of Palm Harbor, Florida, contacted the Mayfield Historical Society through the Society’s Facebook page after doing a web search on the name “Oliver Rice”, which was written on the back of the painting. Also written on the back was “DFB Painter, Oliver Rice Aged 75, 1843.” After careful examination of the handwriting and the face in the portrait along with Oliver’s birthdate of 1768, it was determined that this was indeed a portrait of Oliver Rice of The Rice Homestead.
Oliver Rice Portrait
Ms. Lanagan-Robison said that the painting had belonged to her parents, but she did not know how they came to acquire it. Her family was from Indianapolis, Indiana, and she knew of no connection to Mayfield, NY. She had researched her family genealogy along with the Rice genealogy but did not find a common ancestor. About a month ago, she very graciously decided to donate the painting to the Mayfield Historical Society. She felt that the best place for it was back in Mayfield, New York, in Oliver Rice’s home where many visitors to the museum would enjoy it for years to come.
In researching the painter, “DFB”, the Mayfield Historical Society feels that this is very likely an early portrait done by Daniel Folger Bigelow (born July 22, 1823 – died July 14, 1910) who became a nationally known landscape painter. He was born on a farm in Peru, New York, and began painting at an early age. As his biography indicates, he painted some portraits and did them only to obtain money for paints. Like other painters of the Hudson River School, he was inspired by the beauty and majesty of the natural world. He later stated that he had a “passionate love” for the colors of his native northern New York. At age 20, Bigelow decided to become a professional painter. In 1858, he moved to Chicago where he established a studio in Crosby’s Opera House, subsequently destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. About 1887 he was invited to become a charter member of the Academy of Design, later the Art Institute of Chicago. Bigelow exhibited in many galleries, as well as at the National Academy of Design, World’s Colombian Exposition, and Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition of 1876.
Painting to be displayed at The Rice Homestead
Thanks to the generosity of Ms. Lanagan-Robison, the painting will be proudly on display at The Rice Homestead, 328 Riceville Road in Mayfield, NY, beginning with the first Mayfield Historical Society event of the summer season, the 40th Annual Strawberry Festival, Saturday, June 10th, from noon to 4 pm. The Rice Homestead is open through Labor Day Weekend on Wednesdays and Saturdays noon to 4 pm and by appointment by calling 518-332-0538. Admission is free; donations accepted. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/ricehomestead.