Critical Lives Series: a new Muybridge biography by Marta Braun

As your dedicated blogger struggles to keep up with the whirlwind of events and announcements relating to our subject, comes news from Reaktion Books: a new illustrated biography of Muybridge will be published later this year.

Eadweard Muybridge, by Marta Braun
208 pages, 40 halftones  5 x 7 7/8
Series: Reaktion Books – Critical Lives
Paper $16.95
ISBN: 9781861897602   Will publish October 2010

This is a new publication in the Critical Lives series: So Eadweard Muybridge takes his place alongside such cultural greats as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Samuel Beckett, and Sergei Eisenstein.

“Critical Lives is a major series of short critical biographies that present the work of important cultural figures in the context of their lives. Each book relates and brings alive the life of the artist, writer, philosopher or architect in question and assesses their major works at the same time.”

Distributed by the University of Chicago Press.

The life of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is the stuff of legend. An inventive and sensitive photographer, and a technical wizard who was the first ever to freeze motion with a camera, he was also a man of passion who murdered his wife’s lover (although he was acquitted of the crime). Born Edward James Muggeridge, Muybridge reinvented himself several times, changing his surname first to Muygridge then to Muybridge, and late in life upgrading the mundane ‘Edward’ to the saxon, kingly ‘Eadweard’. In Eadweard Muybridge, Marta Braun frames the photographer’s life within the dramatic transformations brought about by the rapidly developing technologies of the late nineteenth century. Born in Kingston upon Thames, Muybridge travelled to the United States at 22 to seek his fortune, first in New York and then in San Francisco where he set himself up as a publisher’s agent and bookseller. As the photographic artist ‘Helios’, Muybridge became famous in the 1870s for his artistic depictions of the rugged beauty of the us West Coast and its inhabitants, from Modoc warriors to the robber barons who pushed through the transcontinental railway. As Edward Muybridge he documented the indigenous tribes and coffee plantations of Guatemala, the expansion of the American frontier and the gold-rush driven remaking of San Francisco. In 1887, working with scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, he invented a method of stop-action photography that heralded the first motion pictures. As lecturer, flamboyant showman and entertainer, he toured Europe and America with his ‘zoopraxiscope’, a machine that re-animated his motion sequences. At the end of his life, lonely and disappointed, his fame dwindling and his career faltering, Muybridge retired to his English birthplace, where he died in 1904. Since then his life and work have continued to fire the imagination of artists as varied as Francis Bacon, Cy Twombly and u2. Eadweard Muybridge presents an insightful and lucid account of the life, work and legacy of this highly influential figure, as well as newly discovered information about the photographer’s masterpiece, Animal Locomotion.

Comments about this series:~

‘beautifully produced – very short critical biographies whose main target audience is likely to be undergraduates, but that will also do nicely for a general audience.’
Times Literary Supplement

‘Reaktion has published a distinguished series of these shorter critical appraisals of famous literary figures’
Independent on Sunday

‘This excellent series should dispel many of the silly shibboleths about critical theory.’
Scotland on Sunday

Marta Braun is professor at the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto. She is the author of Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey and Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science.