Cluytens was born in Antwerp into a musical family. His mother was a soprano at the opera, and after she died in 1906 his father married another singer. He entered the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp at the age of 9, graduating at 16. His father Alphonse, conductor of the Théâtre Royal Français Opera House, engaged his son as a chorusmaster and coach. He joined his father at the Opera, conducting productions there, making his debut on 14 December 1926. In January 1927 he married Germaine Gilson, a soprano soloist in the troupe of the Théâtre Royal Français; they had one son, Michel. He was promoted to house conductor for the 1927–28 season.
In 1932, he became the principal conductor at the Théâtre du Capitole of Toulouse. In 1935 he moved to the Opéra National de Lyon as principal conductor and became the musical director there in 1942.
Cluytens volunteered to serve in the French army in September 1939 and was a French combatant, although he never saw action; he became a French citizen on 14 May 1940. Following the liberation of France, complaints from Bordeaux concerning his alleged collaboration with Nazi authorities led to him being sentenced as part of the épuration; after appeal, on 24 May 1946 his sentence was revoked.
In 1947, he was appointed musical director at the Opéra-Comique, where he conducted 40 works between 1947–1953.
Having made his debut with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra on 20 December 1942, he succeeded Charles Munch in 1949 as principal conductor, which post he held until 1960. Cluytens was due to conduct the first concert to be given by Alfred Cortot in Paris after his disgrace for Vichy activities, in 1947; in the event the concerto was dropped and Cluytens refused to acknowledge Cortot as he and the orchestra left the stage for Cortot to play solo.
He led a famous performance of Wagner's opera Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival on 23 July 1955, being the first conductor of French nationality to conduct at Bayreuth.
Cluytens was well-versed in the German repertoire, and was also noted for authoritative interpretations of Ravel and other modern French composers.
From 1964 he had a close relationship with Anja Silja, whom he had met in Bayreuth. Cluytens died in 1967 at Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Mme Silja purchased his former home in Paris and now resides there. Source: Wikipedia