Here are some of the many, many reviews of the Tate Britain’s Eadweard Muybridge exhibition. More to follow, after all the fuss dies down and I can take a breath.
“History now remembers him in fragments, as a landscape photographer, as a technical innovator, as a key figure in the long march to motion pictures, as the maker of the motion studies whose grids of images and images themselves influenced everyone from the painter Francis Bacon to the conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. His accomplishment is so broad and curious that few have assimilated it into what is, despite everything, a coherent achievement. And a new round of challenges to his originality and even his authorship have surfaced in the last few years.”
“In later portraits of Muybridge, his glacially stern face and wild white hair and beard resemble the hard granite edifices, with white waterfalls, that he photographed in stunning detail in Yosemite. This leads us back to ‘Muybridge – The Movie’, for which only a grizzled Mark Wahlberg or an unhinged Christian Bale could possibly fill those pioneering shoes.”
“The man with the long beard looks more than a little odd, his deep-set, strangely catlike eyes seeming to look backwards into an intense inner world. Even by the standards of the 19th century, when great men from Tennyson to Carlyle cultivated the look of Old Testament prophets, Eadweard Muybridge, who adopted the eccentric spelling of his first name in imitation of a Saxon king, looks a few sandwiches short of a picnic…..
Muybridge died, back home in Kingston, essentially a disappointed man, in 1904. And as David Hockney, a lifelong admirer, points out, without the interest of artists, he’d probably have been forgotten.
‘The cinema made him irrelevant. But his books were such an incredible repository of images for artists to use. Every art school had a copy of The Human Figure in Motion,’ he says.
Hockney transposed a frame of Muybridge’s Seated Woman Drinking Tea, Being Served by Standing Companion into a painting of his own of the same title. ‘The title gives it a quaintness. There is an eroticism in his work, but it’s offset by the sense of scientific inquiry,’ Hockney says.
Yet far from being marooned in a distant world of Victorian eccentricity, Muybridge has long been acclaimed as one of the creators of the modern world – a status that seems to be rising by the day.“
“While his technical innovations belong to the realms of science, Muybridge’s photographs are also objects of elusive beauty, mysteriously imbued with the powerful personality of a man you feel by the end of this show you have come to know.”
“These animal motion studies still hold the power of surprise. A speeding greyhound is almost liquid. A jumping horse appears to decompose and recompose on either side of its hurdle. These everyday creatures are more mercurial than you would imagine.”
“So if you want to know how “motion studies” begat moving pictures begat the movies – a peculiarly Californian story – go to the Tate Britain show, even though the array of wonders is installed with the kind of curatorial teeth-clench that demands reverence for the Art above any atmospheric rendering of the rackety world of the Gilded Age. Would it have killed off aesthetic integrity to have had a bit of California honky-tonk in the glorious room featuring Muybridge’s 360 degree panorama of San Francisco? In an exhibition about the birth of the moving image there are exactly two items that move: a comprehensive slideshow of every plate from Animal Locomotion and a cheerful display of Muybridge’s “zoopraxical” projections.”
Posted here by Stephen Herbert