b. 21 Feb 1790, Hanover, NH - d. 19 Dec 1870; buried Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs; son of Jonathan & Sarah Huntington Freeman; m. Helen Van Rensselaer Woodruff of Albany on 21 May 1817, with whom he had seven children, including Helen Freeman Woodbridge; in 1832 named to a newly-formed Ballston Spa, NY Board of Health to keep out the “dreaded pestilence, spasmodic cholera,” which was ravaging Eastern Canada; in 1838 served as one of the founding directors of the Ballston Spa National Bank; in 1839 via transfer granted the privileges associated the franchise of the Ballston Spa water works, but nothing ever materialized by the time he retransferred the privileges in 1840; moved to Saratoga Springs from Ballston Spa in 1840; served as a Whig elector in the presidential election of 1848, casting his vote for the Taylor/Fillmore ticket; elected mayor of Saratoga Springs in 1865. The portrait is signed at lower right, “Nelson Cook Painter 1857. There is also an inscription on the back which reads, "Samuel Freeman, M.D. Born in Hanover, N.H., Feb. 21, 1790 (Died Dec. 19, 1870) Painted by Nelson Cook, Jan. 1857 at Saratoga Springs, N.Y." The Frick Art Reference Library makes the following observations about the painting: “Gray eyes and hair. Black coat and tie. Red chair. Warm gray background.” The National Academy of Art & Design in 1857 lists Dr. Freeman as the owner of a portrait vaguely entitled A Gentleman, and Dr. Freeman is the likely subject. See special section, The Case of the Unidentified Nelson Cook Sitter.)
[Dr. Freeman is worthy of an interesting footnote. In 1841, during his 10-year visit to the United States, Frenchman Auguste Edouart cut a silhouette of Dr. Freeman with a top hat and cane. The front inscription reads, “Dr. Samuel Freeman MD / Saratoga Springs / July 29 1841.” The silhouette’s reverse states, “Samuel Freeman / Physician & Surgeon / Saratoga Springs / July 29 1841.” The cutting measures 12¾” X 5¾” and resides at Historic New England in Boston. Although there is documented evidence that Edouart also cut Nelson Cook and his wife, Esther, on 9 Sep 1840, these silhouettes are missing.]
b. 14 October 1788, Albany, NY - d. 17 March 1863, Saratoga Springs, NY; buried Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs, NY; daughter of Revolutionary War doctor Hunloke Woodruff and Maria Lansing Woodruff; married Dr. Samuel Freeman on 21 May 1817; bore seven children, but only daughter Helen Freeman Woodbridge lived to advanced adulthood. Helen’s portrait possesses all the hallmarks of a classic Nelson Cook painting: a red seat, intricately detailed lace, a realistic treatment of facial features, and an inscription on verso in Cook’s distinctive hand stating, “Painted by Nelson Cook 1857.” The portrait sold at auction on July 27, 2021 by Coyle’s in Medway, MA for $520, including the buyer’s premium, and then several days later resold by the winning bidder for $800 to a collector just outside of Cook’s hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY. Nearly one year later the collector donated the portrait to the Saratoga Springs History Museum, where it could be viewed more broadly by the public. Interestingly, when this portrait first went on the auction block, it was described simply as “Oval portrait signed by Nelson Cook 1857.” The sitter was unidentified. By means of timely research, just a day prior to the auction date, and with very high level of certainty, the caretakers of this site were able to identify the sitter as Helen Van Rensselaer Woodruff Freeman. To find out what clues led to this identification, go to The Case of the Unidentified Nelson Cook Sitter.
b. 14 December 1824, Saratoga Springs, NY – d. 23 Jan 1911, New Brunswick, NJ; buried Elmwood Cemetery, New Brunswick, NJ; only one of seven children of Dr. Samuel Freeman and Helen Woodruff Freeman to reach advanced adulthood, as all of Helen Jr.’s siblings died before 1857 when all three Freeman portraits were painted; m. Rev. Dr. John Woodbridge 11 Sep 1861 with whom she had five children; Rev. Dr. Woodbridge (1824-1909) was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Saratoga for over 20 years, before transferring to the Second Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick, NJ for another 24 years...he died in So. Pasadena, CA after a ten-year residency. The oval portrait, painted in Saratoga Springs, was signed in the lower left "Nelson Cook Painter 1857." The Frick Art Reference Library offers this description of Mrs. Woodbridge and the painting: "Dark gray eyes, warm black hair. White lace collar, onyx and flowered brooch, mulberry velvet dress, black wrap with ermine trimming. Green chair. Background changing from buff to brown." See special section, The Case of the Unidentified Nelson Cook Sitter.
b. Jacksonville, IL, 20 Oct 1832 - d. Saratoga Springs, 1915; daughter of Sarah Ellen Hardin and John J. Hardin, one-time US Congressman and leader in Black Hawk War, killed at Buena Vista in Mexican War; granddaughter of Martin Hardin, US Senator (KY); came to Saratoga 1851, when mother married Reuben Walworth; m. stepbrother Mansfield Tracy Walworth, 29 July 1852, making her Reuben's stepdaughter and daughter-in-law; marriage produced 8 children but also domestic violence, separation, and scandal [see Walworth Children]; co-founder of the DAR, 1890, educator, and civic leader in Saratoga; her 1893 address on the value of archives said to lead eventually to creation of National Archives; poet, essayist, author, pioneer feminist. Portrait is oil on canvas oval, signed and dated verso by the artist; front view head with shoulders slightly turned, light brown hair braided across top; wearing white lace stole over green gown; left hand seems posed to display wedding ring prominently; subject, with a cheerful, outgoing countenance, seated on rose-colored chair, pale brown background.
b. 1 May 1817, Caldwell, NY - d. 22 Jul 1887 in Tarrytown [Westchester Co.], NY; son of Judge William Hay (once referred to as an "acute lawyer" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in a letter to Susan B. Anthony when seeking legal advice for the women's movement) and Sophia Payne, residents of Saratoga Springs; in 1850 worked for Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Smillie, a New York City firm engaged in bank note and postage stamp engraving; one of the founding members of the New York Water Color Society in 1850; also a little-known landscape painter, who worked mostly in the Adirondacks, with particular interest in painting lake and river scenes; primarily known for his water colors on paper using an "ink and wash" technique, whereby a thin, translucent layer of paint is applied to an ink drawing; on 2 Jan 1844 married Sarah Fox (b. 1825 - d. 3 Sep 1861) and then following Sarah's death, on 30 Sep 1863 in Saratoga Springs married the eccentric Marietta Doe Pickering (b. 1819 - d. 13 Feb 1901) of Sackets Harbor, NY; probably lived for a time in Saratoga Springs, but eventually settled in Tarrytown, NY in 1870 where he remained until his death; Hay's estate financed the Dewitt C. Hay Memorial Tower and Library and the carillon at the United Presbyterian Church in Sackets Harbor, NY and the Caldwell-Lake George Library in Lake George, NY, where Cook's portrait of Mr. Hay now hangs. Hay's portrait is signed and dated on reverse: "Painted by Nelson Cook 1857." The portrait's lack of arms and hands and only the faint hint of Cook's characteristic red chair in an otherwise plain background suggest Hay's unwillingness to invest a great deal in his own likeness.
Courtesy of the Caldwell-Lake George Library.
b. ? - d. ?; This 3/4 length portrait shows an unknown woman in a blue gown standing before a mountainous landscape scene. While Cook is known to have used this exterior background technique in several paintings, when he did so he generally downplayed this aspect of the portrait [see Anna Cady Cook, Thomas Jefferson Marvin, James G. Averill, Reuben Hyde Walworth, Jr., Portrait of a Girl]. But in this instance, Cook has included a glowing red sky in his landscape, which provides a contrasting backdrop to the composition, in much the same way his trademark red seat does in many of his other portraits. Cook's light and airy treatment of the woman's gown is especially noteworthy and the delicate quality of the fine lace of the dress's sleeves is reminiscent of the artist's 1850 portrayal of Phebe Hawxhurst Field's lace cap. But there may be something else going on here in what is otherwise a beautifully crafted portrait. Similar to Cook's 1848 Portrait of a Lady, the artist has included wilted flowers with a falling petal, an urn, a sitter with a subdued, Mona Lisa-like smile, and a red, somewhat threatening, background sky, all of which suggest this may be a posthumous mourning portrait in remembrance of the woman in the blue gown herself. Such renderings of the deceased as if they were still very much alive were extremely popular in the 1850s. Signed on the back: "Painted by Nelson Cook 1857".
b. ? - d. ?; This severely damaged portrait was found in a closed arts center in Lake Placid, NY and subsequently purchased by the current owner. Prior to that the facility was a fine arts school. Other than Cook's signature, location, and date on the reverse, absolutely nothing is known of the sitter's identity.
While identification of children of the extended Reuben Walworth family in these portraits is uncertain, many of his offspring have interesting biographies:
b. Plattsburgh, NY, 30 May 1820 - d. 1900; oldest son of Reuben and 5th child; graduated Union College, 1838; admitted to bar, 1841, and practiced law in Rochester; attended Episcopal divinity school in NYC; became a Catholic, attended University of Wittenberg and ordained priest; served as missionary in England and, after 1850 for 15 years, in USA; helped found Paulist Order; poor health curtailed missionary work; served as pastor of St. Mary's Church, Albany, until his death.
Sarah Simonds Walworth
m. 31 Aug 1838; husband John Mason Davison, long Register in Chancery in Saratoga and later President, Saratoga and Whitehall RR; Davison son of Gideon Davison, founder of Saratoga Sentinel newspaper and several successful railroads, including Utica & Schenectady in 1833. Smithsonian Institution Research Information System notes a portrait of Sarah.
b. Albany, 3 Dec 1830 - d. NYC, 3 June 1873; Reuben's 2nd son and youngest child; graduated Union College, 1849, and Harvard Law, 1852; admitted to bar, 1855; practiced law with father but eventually lost interest; became writer for the Home Journal and a novelist; books include Mission of Death (1853), Lulu (1865), Warwick (1868), Beverly, or The White Mask (1873); a Feb 1858 letter from Cook to Mansfield suggests that the artist, then in NYC, attempted to teach the young man about classical art and art appreciation; m. stepsister Ellen Hardin, 1852; reflecting severe domestic discord, he at one point moved to NYC and wrote threatening letters to Ellen; eldest son Francis/Frank Hardin Walworth at 19, upset at father's behavior, shot and killed him in NYC; following sensational trial, Frank sentenced to life in prison, but mother Ellen worked for his pardon on grounds of inherited insanity.
Reuben Hyde Walworth (jr)
Posthumous portrait of the only child of Sarah and the Chancellor [See Reuben Hyde Walworth, Ellen Hardin Walworth]. This was painted from a daguerreotype several years after the infant's death. The child is pictured lying on a Walworth family love seat that is currently in the same room of Saratoga's Casino Museum where the portrait hangs as of 2007.
Unidentified Walworth Children
Oil on canvas, horizontal oval, signed on verso "Painted by Nelson Cook. Saratoga Springs. 1858". This pair, well dressed, well groomed and clearly of a family of stature, are thought to be two of the eight children of Mansfield Tracy and Ellen Hardin Walworth,most likely [says one assessment] of Frank and John. This and the painting below are located in the Walworth
Oil on canvas oval, s., d.1858 verso. This angelic portrait with tones of light gray, beige, and blue is thought to be a posthumous painting, as suggested by the puffy clouds at bottom. Donated in the 1950s by a great granddaughter of Reuben Hyde Walworth. Image Courtesy of Historical Society of Saratoga Springs, acc #W-70-19
b. 18 March 1781, New Jersey - d. 1866; m. Esek Cowen 1811; daughter of Sidney Berry, Revolutionary War Colonel and first clerk and surrogate of Saratoga County. Children by Esek: Susan Berry, Sidney Joseph, and Patrick Henry Cowen; apparently, by previous marriage, mother of Thomas Rogers (b. 1808), who became step-son and law student of Esek and later entered politics. It is perhaps a demonstration of the close ties -- by family, by profession, etc. -- of Cook's sitters that Judge Halsey Rogers was uncle of Thomas. The oval portrait is signed on the back: "Painted by Nelson Cook, Saratoga Springs, 1858." Although this painting is only available in black and white, the Frick Collection provides the following description of the colors: "Brown eyes and hair. White cap. Transparent white cap strings hang down over the black dress. White fichu [kerchief] in which is a gold pin. Dark plum-colored cloak. An emerald green chair shows at the left. Dark blackish gray background."
Pair of portraits noted by Smithsonian Institution Research Information System.
b. Ernestine Louise/Lasmond Susmund Potoski/Polowsky, 13 Jan 1810, Pyeterkow, Poland - d. Brighton, England, 4 Aug 1892; a leading feminist, abolitionist and atheist; born the daughter of a rabbi, she rebelled from strict Jewish upbringing, left Poland, and befriended radicals in England such as utopian socialist Robert Owen; married William Rose and came to the USA, where she took up abolitionism and other causes. Described as handsome, well spoken, and witty, she often addressed large audiences, first in New York state, then further afield; worked with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, William Lloyd Garrison, Isabella Beecher Hooker [of the famous Beecher clan, related through marriage to JH Hooker], many others. She and husband are buried in Highgate Cemetery, London. Many photos and lithographs of Rose exist; it is tempting to suggest feminist and Saratogan Ellen Walworth as the link to Cook, but it seems as likely that Cook and Rose came together due to her many conventions in upstate New York; Cook also was in NYC around this time. Exhibited at the National Academy of Art & Design, NYC, 1858, cat #216; portrait owner at the time listed in NAD catalog as "E.L. Cook," though this may be a misprint for E.L. Rose; Mr. Rose apparently owned his portrait.
b. ca 1813, England - d. 1882, England; skilled jeweler and silversmith; born a Christian; follower of Robert Owen; married Ernestine Rose ca 1830; they set up shop in New York, he working with jewelry to support her causes, she making the perfumed papers she sold in Europe and the USA to ease the stench of tenement houses. Cook's family portraits, like most of those of the 19th Century, are generally defined by the husband/father; William and Ernestine Rose apparently are an exception. Exhibited at the National Academy of Art & Design, NYC, 1858, cat #217; portrait owner at the time listed as Mr. Rose.
Dr. Alger is listed as owner of portrait A Gentleman in the National Academy of Art & Design record for 1859, cat #589; the subject may be Dr. Alger. There is a Wilks S. Alger reported as a trustee of Saratoga Springs in 1850 by Sylvester's History of Saratoga County (1878).
b. ? - d. ?. This painting is wonderfully crafted both in artistic technique and composition as the woman strikes a whimsical, but pensive pose. Cook has masterfully captured his sitter's external beauty and internal peace. In the process we are happily forced to gaze upon her contemplative facial expression in the same way that she seems equally comfortable staring back at us. The artist's treatment of her hair curls and the folds of her clothing is superb and though her hand still shows somewhat tubular fingers as in other portraits, the rendering appears more lifelike than many of Cook's other attempts. While the portrait has many condition issues, the foregoing description is begging someone to restore the painting to its glory days of over 150 years ago. The portrait is signed on reverse: "Painted by Nelson Cook, Saratoga Springs, 1859."
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