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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Philip Henry Delamotte

Other: P.H. Delamotte 
Other: Philip H. De La Motte 
Joint: Cundall & Delamotte 
Dates:  1820 - 1889
Born:  Great Britain, Kent, Sandhurst
Died:  Great Britain, London
Active:  Great Britain
The son of a painter, Delamotte taught arts at King‘s College, London as a career but worked in photography for over 20 years. He photographed the construction of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham (Great Britain) from 1851-4, edited photography magazines and made photographic tours of Yorkshire with Joseph Cundall.
[Courtesy of Pam Roberts]
He also took photographs of artworks as in the book "The Reveley Collection of Drawings at Brynygwin, North Wales". Photographed by Philip H. Delamotte, F.S.A., Professor of Drawing, and T. Frederick Hardwich, Lecturer in Photography, in King‘s College, London, London (Bell and Daldy) 1858.

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Approved biography for Philip Henry Delamotte
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Born into a Huguenot family, Delamotte was inspired by his father, the drawing master at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. His two brothers were also artists, and he quickly became a skilled illustrator and engraver, contributing engravings to the Society of Arts. His watercolor landscapes are picturesque, yet still realistic and not overly stylized. Photography eventually emerged as Delamotte’s major passion and artistic outlet. With truth to nature the goal, the new art also comfortably complemented the range of his artistic endeavors. In 1850 Delamotte, as described in a publication that year, “availed himself of that ingenious invention the Talbotype” to reproduce copies of Roman art newly discovered in Cirencester. Soon after, the writer and architect M. Digby Wyatt called upon Delamotte to produce watercolors of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and Delamotte also made calotypes of the construction of the Crystal Palace, where Wyatt was superintendent building works. Delamotte secured a license from Talbot and began to offer calotypes, becoming the first truly successful commercial calotypist in England. One of the most prolific contributors to photographic exhibitions in Britain, beginning with the pivotal exhibition at the Society of Arts in 1852, he worked primarily in collodion. However, his contributions to the society’s 1855-56 exhibition marked a return to the paper negative. His subject here was again the Crystal Palace, now reerected at Sydenham, and perhaps Delamotte turned to paper to avoid the halation problems that were endemic with glass negatives. Commissioned by the Crystal Palace Company, these are his finest photographs. He continued to exhibit through 1861, sometimes in conjunction with his business partners, Robert Howlett and, later, George Downes, but only once more in paper negative - a calotype view of a lake in Wales for the 1856 exhibition of the Manchester Photographic Society. Always interested in teaching, in 1853 Delamotte published The Practice of Photography, which would be a starting point for many new to the art. In 1855 he was appointed the professor of drawing and perspective at King’s College, London. One of Delamotte’s most important contributions to photography was his promotion of the oxymel process, which was invented by his friend John Dillwyn Llewelyn. A mixture of honey and vinegar, oxymel made it possible to use a collodion glass plate in a dry condition, thus enabling a photographer to prepare plates in advance. The portability of the paper negative was thereby combined with the detail of the glass, and Delamotte’s 1856 The Oxymel Process in Photography helped to popularize the new approach, a harbinger of the factory-made dry plates that began to arrive a few decades later. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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Unidentified photographer
Portrait of Philip Henry Delamotte 
Family history 
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Exhibitions on this website

Theme: Documentary
ThumbnailDocumentary: 19th Century Philip Henry Delamotte and The Crystal Palace (1854-1855) 
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Who has scans of the 1851/1852 Crystal Palace building in Hyde Park taken by William Henry Fox Talbot and Benjamin Brecknell Turner?
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
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Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.48 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Philip Henry Delamotte.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Philip Henry Delamotte are included in this classic history.] 
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