A Cluett Painting Comes Home


        This life size portrait of Caroline Ide Cluett (Mrs. Albert E.) and her four sons was commissioned by Albert Cluett in 1916 from well-known portrait painter, Samantha Littlefield Huntley (1865-1949).  The setting is a view near the Cluett’s summer home in Saratoga Springs. Albert’s 1918 portrait by the same artist has hung for many years in the dining room of the Hart-Cluett House, now RCHS’s historic house museum, where it was while the family was in residence. The photo of the front parlor of the house, taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey in the mid-1930’s shows the painting of Caroline and her sons to the left of the fire place.  The boys in the painting are John Girvin Cluett, to the right of his mother; Edmund Cluett II, to her left; Albert E. Cluett II, seated in the center; and Richard Ide Cluett, the little red-head in the foreground. The portrait resided in the homes of descendants until it was given to  RCHS by Ted Cluett and family this past winter. It made a safe journey to Troy from Colorado to become the centerpiece of the exhibit, “The Art of Childhood, Selected Works from the RCHS Portrait Collection.” Jane Cluett Hansen, and Allan Cluett, children of John, were present for the opening of the crate. They were glad to see their father, uncles, and grandmother in such good shape.

         Artist Samantha Littlefield Huntley (1865-1949) was a native of Watervliet, NY.  Her ancestors settled in Rensselaer County in the late 18th century.  She studied at the Art Students’ League in New York City, and the Julien Academy and Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. She traveled in France, Spain and Italy, studying art and copying master works in European museums. Huntley lived in Troy for many years.  She made her name as a portrait painter, having painted the wives of diplomats in Paris, Governors Higgins and Black of New York and other politicians, businessmen and their families in Troy and the wider Capital District. The Detroit Institute of Fine Arts had an exhibit of her work in 1910.  Around 1925 she began branching out into landscape painting.

     Two generations of the Cluett family owned the house at 59 Second Street after the original builder-owners, Richard and Betsey Howard Hart.  George B. and Amanda Cluett and their three youngest children moved there in 1893. George was one of the founders in 1861 of the collar and cuff manufactory which bore his name - for a long time the firm was one of the largest in the world.  In 1910 they sold the home to George’s nephew Albert and his wife Caroline. Albert, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked in prominent positions in Cluett, Peabody for 28 years.  Youngest son Richard was born after the family came to 2nd Street.

      RCHS is delighted to welcome this wonderful portrait home after more than six decades.  After the current exhibit closes in August, the Cluett family portraits will be reunited in the dining room of the Hart-Cluett House.