On the Move: catch it while you can

Still four weeks to go until the Estorick’s (London) exhibition finishes. On the Move: Visualising Action, by Jonathan Miller, closes 18th April. (Check their website for opening times.) A mix of 19th and 20th-century paintings, drawings, linocuts, many photographic prints, and a small selection of objects including some Muybridge lantern slides (Fancy Dancing), Animal Locomotion collotypes, and several original Zoopraxiscope colour discs. Plus: a Marey photographic gun, a Marey bronze of a seagull in flight – and replica praxinoscopes, zoetrope, phenakistiscope, and thaumatrope to play with. One small quibble – the ‘Double pulley slide’ comprising the silhouette sequence of a horse, on a small glass disc, is captioned as (from  memory) not being intended for illumination or public show. In fact, this would have been used in a magic lantern (slide projector) and shown to the public on a big screen. It was sometimes known as a ‘lantern Wheel of Life’.

I was especially interested to see several photographic prints by Idris Kahn : Rising Series… After Eadweard Muybridge ‘Human and Animal Locomotion’ – manipulating Muybridge images by superimposing them, as I had not previously seen all of these. At least one other artist, Doug Keyes, has used a similar technique, but I have not seen his images. This composite technique was first used by Francis Galton for scientific purposes; he superimposed Muybridge’s galloping horse phases in 1882.

A short film about Muybridge, by Keith Hathaway, plays continuously. This semi-animates a number of Animal Locomotion images, using the lantern slide versions from the Kingston collection.

A very engaging exhibition, with excellent text by Jonathan Miller.

In the accompanying 60-page book, which does not list the individual exhibits, Jonathan Miller states: “In contrast to Muybridge – whose influence on art was largely confined to corrections of the pictorial representation of animal movement, Marey unknowingly laid the foundations for one of the most significant developments in 20th-century modernism…” A check on YouTube for Muybridge will reveal a plethora of new Muybridge-inspired pieces, mostly animations, by young artists. And the creators of many modern works to be found in galleries today – paintings, drawings, photographs, installations – cite Muybridge as their inspiration. Just as Marey influenced the artists of 20th-century modernism, Muybridge is inspiring the artists who are creating the visual media of the 21st century.

Mural, Kingston Upon Thames.

On the Move: Visualising Action

Billy Whizz, from The Beano Book, 1999

Above: one of the images promoting the exhibition.

More ‘Marey’ than ‘Muybridge’, but I thought it would make a change from the usual Muybridge photos used as headers.

Jonathan Miller’s exhibition On the Move is now open at the Estorick Gallery, 39a Canonbury Square, London N1 2AN –

until 18th April.


Although the problem of depicting movement in painting and sculpture had concerned artists for many centuries, the birth of the Futurist movement in 1909 signalled a renewed interest in the subject. Taking as its starting point the Estorick’s own collection of Futurist masterpieces, On the Move draws on a wide range of material in many different media to provide an in-depth examination of this complex and fascinating theme.

Many of Futurism’s pictorial innovations were in fact built on foundations laid during the nineteenth century, when the emerging medium of photography began to reveal previously unseen aspects of reality. The pioneering research of Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey was of particular importance in this respect.

There’s a brief review and interview with Jonathan Miller here:


and don’t forget to visit The Compleat Muybridge from time to time, too.