Oil Paintings by Captain Simon Fitch
Captain Simon Fitch of Lebanon, CT, married Dan Huntington’s sister, Wealthy Huntington. Presumably through this connection Fitch came to paint the wedding portraits of his brother-in-law Dan and new bride Elizabeth Whiting Phelps sometime around 1801, when the two were married. Included with the gift of the two wedding portraits was a portrait of General Matthew Clarkson. No one is certain why Fitch copied this Gilbert Stuart portrait for his relatives. It has been speculated that Fitch may have served under Clarkson in the Revolution. Since so little is known of Fitch during the Revolutionary period, and indeed in general, this must remain conjecture.
Most of what we know about Fitch comes from biographical information supplied in a mere two paragraphs by Dan Huntington in his 1857 memoir entitled Memories, Counsels, and Reflections. By an Octogenary. The information supplied amounts to only one anecdote, concerning Fitch’s difficulty painting the portrait of Timothy Dwight, President of Yale. Only one scholarly article has been written about Fitch, contained in the October 1961 issue of The Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin. Though it is in no way remarkable for its insight (the author remarks that the only real information we have on Fitch comes from Huntington’s book, and extrapolates what he can from that meager source), it is useful in providing comparisons between Fitch and some of his contemporary artists.
The portraits of Dan and Elizabeth Huntington, the third generation, are the earliest known likenesses of residents of Forty Acres. There is also a portrait of Charles Porter Phelps, Elizabeth Huntington’s brother, still privately owned by a descendant. There are no surviving portraits of the first two generations who lived at the house, if indeed any ever existed.
- Huntington, Dan. Memories, Counsels, and Reflections. By an Octogenary. Addressed to His Children and Descendants, and Printed for Their Use. (Cambridge: Metcalf and Company, 1857). P. 107.
- Warren, William Lawson. “Captain Simon Fitch of Lebanon, 1758-1835, portrait painter” in The Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin. Volume 26, Issue 4, Oct. 1961, pp. 96-129.