The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Auguste Del√Ętre, 1822-1907

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1822
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1907.07.26
Place of Death: Paris


Auguste Delâtre was a French etcher and printer.


Delâtre was taught to print by Charles Jacque and Louis Marvy. He set up his own studio as an artist's printer and 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.

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, 'Thames Set' in 1861. Delâtre 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.

Delâtre's print shop became a meeting place for other notable etchers such as Charles-Francois Daubigny. The cult of Japonisme is said to have begun there through the Hokusai manga that he owned. Whistler etched his portrait, Auguste Delàtre (K.26).

In 1862 Delâtre helped to found the Societe 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.

In the siege of Paris in 1870 Delâtre's studio was destroyed, as were his works and equipment. He fled to London, where 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.


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; 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).