Home > The Catalogue > Biography

Return to previous page

Auguste Del√Ętre, 1822-1907

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1822
Place of Birth: Paris
Place of Death: Paris


Auguste Delâtre was a French etcher and printer.


Delâtre was taught to print by Charles Jacque and Louis Marvy and worked for them from 1843. He later bought a press from them and set up his own workshop as an artist's printer.

Béraldi gives addresses for Delâtre's premises at various times. Delâtre was himself an etcher and published many original works of his own, which are listed by Béraldi. In 1848 completed his first series of etchings.

He pioneered the 'mobile etching' technique, a method of painting ink on to the plate so that up to forty unique impressions could be made from the same plate, rather than a uniformly wiped edition. This influenced the practice of monotype amongst artists such as Ludovic Lepic and Edgar Degas. It also fuelled disagreement concerning the extent to which a printer should interfere with artistic matters.

However, Delâtre built up a considerable reputation amongst artists and it was to him that the majority of progressive etchers turned. He printed plates by Braquemond, Haden, Jacque, Jacquemart, Méryon, Daubigny, Millet, Rops, Rousseau, and Whistler. Haden said 'if Rembrandt lived now, he would send his plates to Delâtre'.

In 1858 Whistler was amongst those to seek Delâtre's help and twenty sets of Whistler's Douze eaux-fortes d'apres nature, the 'French Set', dedicated to Haden, were printed at Delâtre's shop at 171 rue St Jacques, Paris. A further fifty sets were printed later in London. Delâtre was also involved in the printing of Whistler's Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames and Other Subjects, the 'Thames Set', in 1861.

Delâtre's print shop became a meeting place for many notable etchers. The cult of Japonisme is said to have begun there through the Hokusai manga that he owned.

In 1862 Delâtre was co-founder of the Societé des Aquafortistes in Paris, and in 1864, as a result of the efforts of Whistler and Seymour Haden, he was invited to England to advise on the setting up of an etching class at the National Art Training Schools at the South Kensington Museum.

Whistler etched his portrait, Auguste Delâtre, Printer 028.

In the siege of Paris in 1870 Delâtre's studio was destroyed by a shell, as were his works and equipment. He fled to London, setting up a business aided by Edwin Edwards. There he met up with other expatriate French artists such as James Tissot and Jules Dalou. He returned to Paris in 1876 and set up a new studio in Montmartre.

In 1887 he published Eau-forte, pointe sèche et vernis mou of which Whistler owned a copy. (Glasgow University Library, Whistler 22). Delâtre undoubtedly showed Whistler how to manipulate the ink by means of retroussage and by leaving areas of surface ink in order to achieve an extra richness. Bèraldi credits Delâtre with the development of the wiped plate method, and has a lengthy technical footnote in which he defines various stages of work on the plate:

Nature - plain; Essuyée - wiped; Soutenue – constant; Garnie – filled; Engraissée - crammed; Retroussée - turned up; Truquée – faked.

Béraldi cites Salmon (who printed a set of Whistler's Venice etchings in 1886) and particularly Ardail as worthy successors to Delâtre.


Delâtre, Auguste, Eau-forte, pointe sèche et vernis mou, Paris, 1887; Bèraldi, Henri, Les graveurs du XIXe siècle : guide de l'amateur d'estampes modernes, Paris, 1892, vol. 5, pp. 170 ff ;

Lugt, Frits, Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes: marques estampillèes et écrites de collections particulières et publiques; marques de marchands, de monteurs et d'imprimeurs; etc..., Amsterdam, 1921, nos. 104, 105; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Thieme, Ulrich, Felix Becker, and Hans Vollmer, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, 1960; Jauis, E. P., 'Setting the Tone: The Revival of Etching, the Importance of Ink', The Painterly Print: Monotypes from the 17th-20th Centuries, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1980, pp. 9-28; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Lymbery, Etrenne, 'Auguste Delâtre', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 24 May 2002); Balteau, J. et al., (eds.), Dictionnaire de Biographie Francaise, Paris, 1933 et seq.