Anita Ventura Mozley dies at 81

Curator of photography Anita Ventura Mozley, a prominent Muybridge scholar, died on January 23rd of natural causes at her home in Menlo Park, California.

From the Stanford Report, Obituary by Karen Bartholomew:

February 16, 2010
Former Stanford photography curator Anita V. Mozley dies at 81

As curator of photography at the Stanford Museum of Art, Anita Ventura Mozley organized exhibitions on Eadweard Muybridge, Ansel Adams, Joseph Raphael and Robert Frank. She also expanded the museum’s photography collection.

Soon after joining the museum as registrar, she recognized the significance of its comprehensive collection of Muybridge’s stop-motion photographs of the horse in motion, commissioned a century earlier by Gov. Leland Stanford. She was named curator of photography in 1971, and the following year organized her most significant exhibition, “Eadweard Muybridge: The Stanford Years, 1872-1882,” which traveled nationally and internationally. Mozley later wrote the introductory text to Muybridge’s Complete Human and Animal Locomotion (Dover, 1979).

Active in the New York art scene of the 1950s as a writer, critic and painter, Anita Ventura designed posters for the Leo Castelli Gallery and came to know Jasper Johns … Ventura served as managing editor and West Coast correspondent for Arts Magazine from 1955 to 1964. With sculptor Sidney Geist, she produced an alternative arts newsletter, Scrap, from 1960 to 1962. Scrap grew out of their dissatisfaction with conventional art criticism and expressed, as Geist later wrote, “both a combativeness and an irreverence toward criticism itself.”

After moving to San Francisco in 1962, she worked at the Maritime Museum and married physicist Robert Mozley before joining the Stanford Museum in 1970. Virtually overnight, she initiated the expansion of the museum’s photography collection. In addition to Muybridge, her research included Julia Margaret Cameron, Thomas Annan, Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, Peter Stackpole and Lorie Novak.

Mozley’s other memorable exhibitions included “Ansel Adams: The Portfolios,” 1972; “The Grand Tour: Mid-19th Century Photographs from the Leonard–Peil Collection,” 1979; “Paintings by Joseph Raphael,” 1980; “Ansel Adams: Ski Experience,” 1983; and “Images of Hope and Despair: Robert Frank’s Photographs,” 1985. For her 1974 exhibition “Mrs. Cameron’s Photographs from the Life,” Mozley staged Virginia Woolf’s play Freshwater: A Comedy at the museum and cast herself as the main character, Julia Margaret Cameron, who was Woolf’s great-aunt.

After retiring in 1986, Mozley again took up drawing and painting, and exhibited in California and at shows near her summer home at Southport, Maine.

Jed Perl, art critic of The New Republic, said Mozley would be remembered for her “pioneering scholarly work” on Muybridge, which “like all of Anita’s undertakings, were fueled by an artist’s sensibility.”

With her informed editing of Eadweard Muybridge, The Stanford Years 1872-1882 Anita Ventura Mozley created much more than an exhibition catalogue. It was in fact the first book to deal exclusively with Muybridge and his work, making clear the scope of the photographer’s many projects, and indicating his influence. Her scholarship was deep and meticulous. When Kevin Macdonnell’s flawed book Eadweard Muybridge, the Man who Invented the Moving Picture appeared in 1972, she commented in considerable detail and with palpable exasperation about the book’s serious shortcomings, after the Times Literary Supplement had simply noted its publication uncritically as a ‘a well-produced picture book’. Her detailed analysis of the book’s problems have been useful to subsequent researchers. Anita V. Mozley’s extensive Introduction to the 1979 Dover edition of Animal Locomotion gave a thorough grounding in the subject of Muybridge and his work for the reader (mostly artists – since this is today essentially an art reference publication) who may not have troubled to seek out a biography, and would otherwise have been using Muybridge’s work with little understanding of its origins.