The publisher and amateur etcher Alfred Cadart (1828–1875) played a key role in the revival and sale of etchings in France and beyond. As founder of the French Société des Aquafortistes, he combined strategic understanding with a passion for the artistic qualities of the etching.
His efforts to promote the art of etching did not bring him financial success, but they did help develop the infrastructure for original printmaking that emerged in the 1890s.
Etching versus Photography
Cadart married the sister of a painter, which led him in 1859 to start publishing reproductions of paintings in the form of both photographs and etchings.
After a few years, he threw himself entirely into the promotion of etching, in which he took an explicit stance against the growing popularity of photography.
This was a deliberate strategy—by dismissing photography as mechanical and uninspired, he wanted to emphasise etching as ‘the caprice, the fantasy, the most immediate way to convey one’s thoughts.’
Publications and Etching Societies
Cadart published affordable print albums and print series, etching manuals and articles, and organised exhibitions, lectures and etching demonstrations.
In this way, he offered contemporary artists like Édouard Manet a platform for their etchings, shared his knowledge of etching techniques, and promoted appreciation of etching as an original art form.
In 1866 he expanded his activities to America, where he founded the French Etching Club of New York.
Alfred Cadart (ed.), Eaux-fortes modernes. Publication d’oeuvres originales et inédités (5 vols.), Paris, 1862–66.
Janine Bailly-Herzberg, L’eau-forte de peintre au dix-neuvième siècle. La Société des aquafortistes, Paris, 1972.
Anna Sigrídur Arnar, ‘From Illustration to Original Print’, in The Book as Instrument: Stéphane Mallarmé, the Artist's Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture, Chicago, 2011.