Alice Simpson: somersaulting figures

Alice Simpson, whose Artist Book, “Bird” appears on The Compleat Eadweard Muybridge website [go here and then scroll down], has kindly sent some photographs of her other Muybridge-related work, in which she references his somersaulting figures. The first is another artist book, the others are ceramics. Enjoy.

Unique Artist Book
Size: 7 1/2” x 5 1/2” x 40” open
Structure: Accordion fold in box with inset label
Materials: Collage, spackle, acrylic, bees wax,
metal punch letters, Japanese  papers
Historical images by Eadweard Muybridge (c.1884)
Poetry: Pablo Neruda (Chile 1904-1973)

I asked of everything if it had
something more,
something more than shape and form,
and I learned that way that nothing is empty–
everything is a box, a train, a boat
loaded with implications,
every foot that walked along a path
left a telegram written in the stone,
and clothes in the washing water
dripped out their whole existence…

Pablo Neruda
from Fully Empowered
Translated by Alastair Reid

12″ H x 16″ W
Stoneware with glaze and oxide

In ‘Reading Lolita in Teheran,’  author, Azar Nafisi, writes about Nabokov’s ‘Invitation to a Beheading’ in which he created the word “…an upsilamba, becoming a bird or catapult with wondrous consequences.”

Alice writes: “Eadweard Muybridge images of somersaulting figures frequently catapult through my books, art and sculptures.”

16” H x 12” W
Glazed porcelain

Five sculptures in motion. Glazed stoneware
From 9.5” to 16.5” H

BETWEEN CLAY AND BOOKS and SOMERSAULT were also inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic  images of somersaulting figures

A L I C E   S I M P S O N
C L A Y & B O O K S

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Animal Locomotion: Award of Honor 1893


World's Fair Chicago 1893 Award

Courtesy Deac Rossell

I recently stumbled across this certificate, illustrated in Homer Croy’s book 1918 book How Motion Pictures Are Made.
It was awarded to the University of Pennsylvania by the Award Commission of the 1893 Columbian Exposition at Chicago:

‘AWARD. For the extent and scientific importance of the collection. The photographs made by Mr. Edward Muybridge, under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, show with great elaboration and precision the locomotion and movements of animals, including man.’

Miriam Hauss of the AGHA gives some details of the Exposition, from The Book of the Fair, by Hubert Howe Bancroft:


Eight hundred fifty-two judges were divided into committees, which then judged divisions and departments. The awards highlighted “the development of the resources of the United States and the progress of the civilization in the New World, as compared with all participating nations.” Each winner received the diploma of honor (the certificate) and a bronze medal, both prepared under the direction of the United States Secretary of the Treasury and designed by William Low, who was also the designer for most of the fresco work at the Exposition. The diploma was meant as a certificate of identification and the medal as a memento of success. To avoid complaints about favoritism, all the bronze medals were alike except for the engraving of the name of the exhibitor.

During the 179 days of the fair, Hubert H. Bancroft reports that 27,529,400 persons attended the fair, the largest attendance for a world’s fair up to that date. In additional there were 65,422 individual exhibitors. As was the custom, exhibitors at the fair were given awards; however this fair’s awards were non-competitive, “granted upon specific points of excellence or advancement formulated in words” rather than for exhibit design. At the Chicago fair, 36 percent of exhibitors won an award, or 21,000 exhibitors receiving 23,757 awards. Bancroft comments that this is far less than at previous world’s fairs: Vienna, in 1873, awarded 26,000 among 42,000 exhibitors (62 percent ), 42 percent won medals at Philadelphia in 1876, and 55 percent were honored at Paris in 1889.

Midway Plaisance, with the Zoopraxographical Hall centre left


Muybridge’s biographer Robert Bartlett Haas mentions the Award, and notes that the certificate is in the [Kingston] Scrapbook, but I don’t think it is; perhaps he read about it in a cutting there. It could have been with the University when Croy – occasional screenwriter, biographer, and author of books about life in the Midwestern United States – saw it. Maybe it’s there still.

From the website of the American Historical Association (the AHA also gained a prize) we learn that the Certificate was large, measuring 24.5 inches high and 19 inches wide. It shows Columbus with the “races of the world” underneath Columbia pointing the way to the White City of the fair. That dark blob on which the figure top left is leaning, is a bison.

The same book describes the animal locomotion exhibits:

Zoopraxiscopic hall is the building of formidable name in which are given illustrated lectures on animal locomotion as applied to art. The discourses and the pictures are both entertaining and instructive, and through them one may learn surprising facts as to animals in motion and the positions which they assume. Investigation in this line is a speciality which has been pursued within comparatively recent years, among the most prominent of those who have engaged in it being Ottomar Anschuetz, of Lissa, Prussia, whose tachyscopes are exhibited in the electricity building, and Eadmund Maybridge (sic!), who displays some of his results in the hall on the plaisance. With photographic apparatus so perfected that an exposure of one ten-thousandth part of a second is sufficient for a truthful impression, the labors of such men have been prolific as results. The step of a man in the act of walking has been photographed at various points of motion, as well as the jumping and galloping of a horse, the climbing of a monkey, and the flight of a bird, with its motions upon the ground. Thus long established ideas which have obtained even among the most observant artists have been corrected, these investigations being of interest and value to the scientist as well as to the world of art.

THE BOOK OF THE FAIR, by Hubert Howe Bancroft

(Chicago, San Francisco : The Bancroft Company, 1893)

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Lankester: The Problem of the Galloping Horse

Ray Lankester by Leslie Ward, Vanity Fair, 1905

One of Muybridge’s fellow speakers on the lecturing circuit in the late 1880s was zoologist E. Ray Lankester (1847-1929), at that time Jodrell Professor of Zoology at University College London. Influential as a teacher and writer on biological theories, comparative anatomy, and evolution, he would be knighted in 1907.

In 1889, Lankester had written a review of Animal Locomotion in Nature. Ray Lankester was an important writer of popular science, his weekly newspaper columns over many years being assembled and reprinted in a series of books entitled Science from an Easy Chair (first series, 1910; second series, 1912). With such attention-grabbing page headers as “Drowning in a Dead Whale’s Heart” the books were aimed at a general popular readership, but Lankester was a well-educated scientist and the contents respectably reliable.

One of these articles (2nd series) was entitled ‘The Problem of the Galloping Horse’, and originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph (date unknown, but some time between 1907 and 1912.) Writers have usually dealt with the subject using a phrase such as “before Muybridge’s photographs, artists had depicted the galloping horse in a ‘rocking horse’ pose, with all four legs widely spread…” but Lankester’s detailed account shows that the story is not that simple.

The “flying gallop”
Lankester writes of Muybridge’s experiments in sequence photography of moving animals: “I have some of these pictures before me now. They show what has been drawn by artists and called the “flying gallop,” in which the legs are fully extended and all feet are off the ground, with the hind hoofs turned upwards, never occurs at all in the galloping horse, nor anything in the least like it.” He reveals that a model showing the “actual instantaneous attitude of the galloping horse has recently been placed in the Natural History Museum.” Until 1907 Lankester was Director of the Museum, so quite likely he was instrumental in that display. Ironically, in the 21st century some museums are still creating displays in which the legs of animals in motion are incorrectly shown.

The story that French academic painter Meissonier adapted his representations of a horse in motion when re-painting one of his pictures after seeing Muybridge’s photographs is well known (and comes from Muybridge himself). The story was reported in May 1887. However, Muybridge’s biographer Hendricks points out that the differences in the two versions of the painting, in terms of the gait of the horses, is very minor. Lankester focuses his attention on a painting by another artist, produced the previous year.

Rezonville (copy, after Morot)

An epoch-making picture
“As early as 1886 a French painter, M. Aimé Morot, availed himself of the information afforded by the then quite novel instantaneous photographs of the galloping horse, and exhibited a picture of the cavalry fight at Rezonville between the French and Germans, in which the old flying gallop does not appear, but the attitudes of the horses are those revealed in the new photographs. The picture is an epoch-making one, whether justifiable or not, and is now in the gallery of the Luxembourg.”

Morot, cover of L’Illustration, 1905

Aimé Morot (1850-1913) was a French painter born in Nancy, where he studied under a drawing master named Thierry. He later attended the atelier of Alexandre Cabanel in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but left after only two weeks to continue his studies independently. During this period he spent much of his time studying animals in the Jardin des plantes, and was later to become famous for his paintings of horses, lions and bulls.

Muybridge included slides of several Morot paintings – including one titled Rezonville and another of the Battle of Reischoffen – in at least one of his lecture scripts, and the slides are today in the Kingston Museum Collection. These are 1880s paintings (the latter 1887) so would have been included in Muybridge’s later lectures – and one of them was shown to accompany his comment: “It is gratifying to ascertain that our labors are beginning to reap their reward, and that some artists are prepared to acknowledge that impression before knowledge and impression after knowledge are two entirely different things. In this picture by Aimé Morot we have an evidence of the soul[‘]s awakening.” [3] Morot’s early rendition of the correct attitude of the horse in gallop is mentioned in art history books, but I don’t remember reading about it in books or articles about Muybridge’s work.

Two questions
From his easy chair, Lankester continues: “Two very interesting questions arise in connection with the discovery of instantaneous photography of the actual positions successively taken up by the legs of a galloping horse.

The first is one of historical and psychological importance, viz. why and when did artists adopt the false but generally accepted attitude of the “flying gallop”?

The second is psychological and also physiological, viz. if we admit that the true instantaneous phases of the horse’s gallop (or of any other rapid movement of anything) can not be seen separately by the human eye, but can only be separated by instantaneous photography, ought an artist introduce into a picture, which is not intended to serve merely as a scientific diagram, an appearance which has no actual existence so far as his or other human eyes are concerned….? And further, if he ought not to do this, what ought he to do…?

Lankester notes that the first question has been answered by French writer Solomon Reinach, who shows that – “in Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, medieval, and modern art up to the end of the 18th century ‘the flying gallop’ does not appear at all!” [2]

English: “Baronet, 1794” oil on Canvas, location: Yale Center for British Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

The first ‘modern’ example of “the flying gallop”
He suggests that the first ‘modern’ example is an engraving by Stubbs in 1794 of a horse called Baronet.

“The essential points about ‘the flying gallop’ are that the fore-limbs are fully stretched forward, the hind limbs fully stretched backward, and that the flat surfaces of the hinder hoofs are facing upwards.” [my italics]

Derby d’Epsom (detail)

Derby D’Epsom
Lankester then states that following Stubbs’ example this attitude was generally adopted in English art, and the French painter Gericault introduced it into France in 1821 with “Derby D’Epsom” which is now in the Louvre.

Science from an Easy Chair (2nd series)

Three types of pose
Lankester outlines three types of poses for the running horse in art, used for centuries previous to the “flying gallop”. He continues:

“The reader will perhaps now suppose that we must attribute the ‘flying gallop’ to the original, if inaccurate, genius of an eighteenth-century English horse painter. That, however, is not the case. M. Reinach has shown that it has a much more extraordinary history. It is neither more nor less than the fact that in the pre-Homeric art of Greece – that which is called ‘Mycenaean’ …the figures of animals, horses, deer, bulls,…dogs, lions and griffins, in the exact conventional pose of “The flying gallop,” are quite abundant!”

The break in tradition
Lankester notes that 37 centuries passed between the original use of the “flying gallop” and its re-introduction in the late 18th-century, and then asks:

“How did the Mycaeneans come to invent, or at any rate adopt, the convention of ‘the flying gallop’, seeing that it does not truly represent either the fact or the appearance of a galloping horse?”

Figure 5 is from a Muybridge photograph

The galloping dog easier to see
“The ‘flying gallop’, with all four legs stretched, and the under surface of the hind feet turned, is really seen by us all every day in the dog, and is recorded in instantaneous photographs of that animal at full speed. … It is easy to see the ‘flying gallop’ in the case of the dog, since the dog does not travel so fast as the galloping horse… It is probable that the dog’s gallop was transferred, so to speak, to the horse by artists… But it is a totally different thing from the gallop of the horse…”

The big question
Lankester then goes on to ask the other big question, “How then… ought an artist to represent a galloping horse?” – and deals with that contentious question at some length. He concludes that “The painter … would be wrong to select any one of the dozen or more poses of the galloping horse published by Muybridge, each limited to the fortieth of a second, since no human eye can fix (as the camera can) separate pictures….”

This contribution by Sir Ray Lankester, and his acknowledgements to Solomon Reinach, don’t seem to have attracted much attention by Muybridge’s biographers or more recent writers on the subject. Historians of photography are not perhaps inclined to seek out popular science books to study their subject.

The “flying gallop” – just one of several gaits that artists have represented differently through the ages, and all dealt with by Muybridge – is perhaps less interesting to us than it was to artists in Muybridge’s time, as we are more attracted to the questions of the influence of such photography on the futurists, and later artists including those working today, than in the reaction of 19th-century academic painters to the revelations of chronophotography. However, it seems to me that the full, detailed story of how Eadweard Muybridge’s important scientific work in establishing the true nature of animal movement was received by the art world is still to be written, and would be an important contribution to Muybridge studies. [4]

1. Nature, May 23rd -which I have not yet read.

2. ‘La Representation du Galop dans l’art ancien et moderne,” Revue Archeologique, Vol. xxxvi et seq, 1900.
(This was subsequent to the work of others, including Emile Duhousset and Muybridge himself, in tracing these artistic developments throughout history.)

3. ‘Lecture by Eadweard Muybridge’, Typescript, National Museum of American History, Washington DC.

4. Extracts by Lankester are from: Science from an Easy Chair. A Second Series (London: Methuen, 1915 second edition)

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge ‘undercut the horse’s essential horseness’

From The Chronicle of Higher Education (online) comes this:
June 27, 2010
Eadweard Muybridge, Thief of Animal Souls

By Randy Malamud

“….my research in anthrozoology (human-animal studies) draws me primarily to Muybridge’s animals, and inclines me to be suspicious of both his perspective and his motives in capturing these creatures’ animating force. If Muybridge’s contextualization of his human models reifies the prevailing notions of gender, his animal studies even more profoundly perpetuate the anthropocentric prejudice that other animals exist to serve our own higher purposes.

Some American Indians believe that to take someone’s image involves actual usurpation of the living spirit.

But do these images displace the actual movement of the actual horse? Have we taken motion from the animal? Having penetrated the animal’s secret, its force of speed, do we exert some kind of control over it? The animals are curiously reduced, caught in the mechanics, the physics, of photography. They are composed not of flesh and blood and hair, but of silver albumen and paper. There were so many of them in the Corcoran Gallery that I couldn’t really see them at all. I certainly couldn’t hear them, or smell them, or feel (as I do in proximity to a real horse) awesomely dwarfed by them. Broken down by Muybridge and his apparatus, they don’t do anything but run, and run. Their force and motion no longer seem their own, but Muybridge’s, and ours. Something of their wildness has been trapped, isolated, and abrogated. Although the human viewers learn much more about the horses, I believe the horses themselves lose something in this transaction.

…..representations that imaginatively or literally rip animals out of their worlds and resituate them as subalterns, or fetishes, or “resources” in our world spell trouble for our fellow species. Muybridge’s complicity in his era’s expansionist and industrial fantasies means, in my judgment, that his photography was ultimately destructive to the animals he so keenly observed. In seeing a horse as a vehicle to make railroads more palatable, he undercut the horse’s essential horseness.”

Randy Malamud is a professor of English at Georgia State University. He is author of Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity (New York University Press, 1998) and Poetic Animals and Animal Souls (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), and editor of A Cultural History of Animals in the Modern Age (Berg, 2007).

The Comments are interesting.

hanoch – June 28, 2010 at 09:48 am

“I found the premise of this essay ridiculous and fantastical….. Mr. Malamud has taken Muybridge out of his context….

I think it’s an unjustified stretch to make the taking of a photograph as the stealing of the essence of horses or or of other beings. We still have horses and very often in our lives have the pleasure of seeing them in real life, riding them, grooming them, and nurturing them. In all their physicality and in emotional and caring relationship to them. Do we reduce our family members by taking their pictures? Is looking at the picture of our deceased mothers and fathers, their pictures our legacy of them, a reduction of them or an abuse of them? What foolishness!”

mottgreene – June 28, 2010 at 10:44 am

“I understand the desire pour épater le bourgeois, but one wonders if the author was engaged in a self parody .. the anthropology – stolen souls – is a part of urban legends, not amerindian ethnography … ‘The assertion of fear of soul stealing was actually an imperial legend helping to describe the childishness of primitives to justify conquest.'”

fputnam – June 28, 2010 at 12:02 pm

“@mottgreene: I agree -this must be a parody, although (I fear that) its prominence in the Chronicle suggests not.”

princeton67 – June 28, 2010 at 08:53 pm

“Ah! Retroactive morality – combining the 20-20 vision of hindsight with an anachronistic morality to damn the dead.”

The article is well written and covers a lot of ground – worth reading, part-parody or not.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Contest Winners Announced!

NPR-Corcoran Muybridge Contest: And The Winners Are …
by Heather Murphy

“Following an NPR story on the first-ever retrospective of Eadweard Muybridge’s work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, NPR invited the public to submit Muybridge-inspired creations. We left the guidelines  open, asking only that the pieces somehow carry the father of motion pictures into 2010.  We received hundreds of submissions — animations, paintings, sculptures, still photographs, dancing bananas  and murder mysteries.

After review by our panel of judges — Corcoran senior curator Philip Brookman, film director Mark Neale (who created U2’s Muybridge-inspired “Lemon” video), NPR multimedia editor Heather Murphy, NPR Picture Show blogger Claire O’Neill and NPR designer Callie Neylan — we have our favorites.

Overall Contest Winners:

The top three winners all take Muybridge’s iconic galloping horse in new and interesting directions.

Unsupported Transit aka Ghost Horse by Michael Brown

This sculpture sits in the lobby of an apartment building in San Francisco. Brown created it using small mirrors with reverse cutouts of Muybridge’s iconic galloping horse. Light-emitting diodes aimed at each mirror are quickly flashed, reflecting the image of the horse onto the frosted glass face of a bell jar and thereby reanimating the horse.

Frenetic Kinetics! by Tim Fort

Fort, who calls himself the “Kinetic King,” takes the domino-effect to a new level, incorporating thousands of Popsicle sticks, piles of plastic cups, blocks swimming flippers and more in a chain reaction that goes on for nearly five minutes. At one point a string is pulled releasing a cardboard flipbook of Muybridge’s galloping horse. Want to see more? He’ll be performing his Muybridgeoscopes live at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on July 10th. (The judges did not know this when his video was selected).

Muybridge First Movie by Veronica Melendez

This stop-action animation piece, created by a Corcoran student just for the contest, offers a sweet take on Muybridge’s legendary study of horses. Melendez created the horse out of duct tape and the little Muybridge figure out of Play-Doh.

Most Unusual Design:

Muybridge Chess Board by Kreg Jones

Using 3-D modeling, a teacher at the Art Institute of Philadelphia created a Muybridge-inspired chess board just for the contest, angling the pieces in the direction they’d move during the game. Jones says he’s now considering turning the model into a real chess board.’

More here:

Congratulations from Muy Blog to all the NPR-Corcoran Contest winners. Photographs were also eligible – more about these in a future post.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert