Funded by a major gift from longtime FRHS member and supporter Douglas Hills Borden Jr., this new gallery is located on the first floor of the museum building.
In a letter to the curator, Doug put into words his reason for the gift, which further cements the relationship he and his late wife Joan have enjoyed with the organization:
Completion of this action will satisfy a long-time desire to be a permanent part of the Society. From the day we first met Florence Brigham, we have come to know and appreciate your mission and our heritage. It is intended that they blend in this action I am taking for Joan and me.
Opening Spring 2024
Recent Acquisitions in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture
In the 102 years of its existence the Fall River Historical Society has amassed a large collection, including American and European paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Each work of art in the permanent collection is a private donation or acquired with specifically contributed funds, and the collection continues to grow steadily.
This exhibit includes a selection of works of art recently acquired by the museum. Among the pieces on display are paintings and drawings in various genre by noted artists of the Fall River and Providence Schools, and still life paintings by other American artists. Also included are paintings and sculpture with provenance linking them to 19th and 20th century Fall River collections.
Several paintings by women artists – previously underrepresented in the FRHS holdings – have been added to the collection, including the work of Mary Lizzie Macomber (1861-1916) and Abbie Luella Zuill (1856-1921), among others.
These pieces explore the legacy of the artists of the Fall River School and bring greater diversity to our holdings of 19th-century paintings by showcasing still life works by other American artists who were working contemporaneously.
In late June 2021, the Fall River Historical Society curator received a note with an enclosed contribution from Douglas H. Borden Jr. Included in the friendly banter was the following passage: “In memory of Joan, my dear wife, who passed away a year ago July 4th. The Fall River Historical Society was a big part of her life.”
A decision was made to use the funds in a manner that would constitute a permanent memorial to Joan in the museum collections. The choice was appropriate: Doug had previously made a major contribution to FRHS to fund the installation of the Douglas Hills Borden Jr. and Joan Louise Borden Gallery.
To that end, “Still Life with Fruit,” a painting by the Fall River School artist Bryant Chapin (1859-1927) was acquired at auction. The painting is a fine example of the artist’s later work and fills a significant gap in the collection, with holdings that include several examples by the artist. Until the acquisition of this 1910 painting, an exceptional example of his still life from the early second decade of the twentieth century was lacking.
On a subsequent visit to the FRHS to review and approve designs for the new gallery, Doug was presented with the Chapin painting, having not previously been told about its acquisition in Joan’s memory. His reaction was very poignant. In short, he was extremely pleased.
An additional contribution provided the funds for the acquisition of another painting in Joan’s memory. In a subsequent letter Doug wrote:
Now, looking ahead, it is my intention to honor Joan on our special days through contributions to the Fall River Historical Society, hence my check. My family and I are much pleased that you have been able to acquire selected paintings and have dedicated them to Joan.
To date, nine paintings have been added to the permanent collection in memory of Joan L. Borden, each the work of a Fall River artist or by one with close association to the city. They have been funded by Doug as a heartfelt tribute to his beloved wife.
The Fall River Historical Society is honored – indeed humbled – to be the recipient of this very special tribute.