The group’s founders also included the critic and collector Philippe Burty and many artists.
Artistic individuality was the most important element — technical skill was not a prerequisite. Cadart set out his society’s ambitions in a sonorous letter to Emperor Napoleon III: ‘it revives a forgotten art, poses a limit to the invasion of photography, reanimates emulation among artists, and raises public taste by the popularisation of their works.’
Apart from organising exhibitions, the society published the print album Eaux-fortes modernes: Publication d’oeuvres originales et inédités, featuring etchings by its members.
Each of the five annual series opened with a galvanising foreword by an established critic, emphasising the artistic quality of the etching and contrasting it with the mechanical character of photography and graphic reproduction for the mass market.
Etched reproductions of paintings were acceptable, provided that they were made by the artist in person.
Alfred Cadart (red.), Eaux-fortes modernes. Publication d’oeuvres originales et inédités (5 dln.), 1862–1866
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, p. 58–101