Eadweard Muybridge: Father of the Motion Picture?

Kingston Museum and Heritage Service

Kingston Museum and Heritage Service

And as a final post for 2012, the text of a talk given at Kingston Museum at the opening of the Muybridge: Revolutions exhibition, 2010.

Eadweard Muybridge: Father of the Motion Picture?
Writers dealing with the motion sequence photography of Eadweard Muybridge have traditionally described him as the ‘Father of the Motion Picture’, and the title of this talk is taken from one of the first biographies. In popular accounts of the subject, this is still a major theme. In this talk, Stephen Herbert examines whether this perspective is valid or relevant. Muybridge’s place in Victorian attempts at producing moving images is investigated, together with the historiography of Muybridge in the 20th-Century, when cinema was the dominant visual medium, and onward into the digital age. For each generation, Muybridge’s work has a new meaning that relates to our own experiences and the media of our time.

And you’ll find the rest here:



Happy New Year!


Posted here by Stephen Herbert


Weird Adventures airs on BBC tv

Andy Serkis. Photo (c) BBC

Apart from re-enactments in a 1960s US programme introduced by Ronald Reagan, Eadweard Muybridge as a character of considerable importance in the story of the creation and recording of the modern world has been absent from television. The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge is the first programme to attempt to tell the full story. It does touch on most aspects, leaving out the bits with very little visual material – the five years spent as a bookseller in New York, totally avoided in the commentary – and his various activities during the five ‘lost years’ back in Europe in the 60s. But for a one-hour programme, it packs a lot in.

Philip Brookman talks with Alan Yentob. Photo (c) BBC

The talking heads include Philip Brookman, whose exhibition in Washington did so much to introduce Muybridge to a wider public; author Rebecca Solnit, in splendid hat, musing on Muybridge in San Francisco as she wanders through the harbour; print collector Michael Wilson marvelling at the artistry of the travel photographs; Jonathan Miller not getting it at all, and insisting that Muybridge was simply an entertainer; recent biographer and long-time chronophotography specialist Marta Braun talking about the Animal Locomotion sequences; art curator Ann Dumas of the Royal Academy of Arts explaining the connection with the ballet dancers of Degas; and Kingston Museum curator Peta Cook introducing the sacred scrapbook, and zoopraxiscope discs.

A nice touch was Stanford Red Barn (Palo Alto) horse trainer Rachel Williamson confirming that the 1870s horse photos are still used today in the equestrian world.

Rachel Williamson. Photo (c) BBC

I got my fair share of the running time, mostly talking about the complexities of the image projections at a Muybridge lecture, and I also managed to get the last word in. [voice from across the room – “you always do…”]

‘Andy Serkis as Muybridge’ said the blurb, and he appeared reading Muybridge’s own words, wearing just a hint of period costume, but no stick-on beard. Serkis was also one of the expert talking heads, since he’s very familiar with the subject, having been developing a Muybridge feature film project for some years. And of course, he’s best known for being Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy – his physical image altered by CG techniques, in a modern development of the motion capture and image manipulation used by Muybridge for converting his photo sequences to painted animations.

No recent news on the feature movie, but perhaps it will happen someday.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Tate Britain: Here come the reviews……

(c) The Independent

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.

Rebecca Solnit defends Muybridge against “a new campaign of innuendo.”

“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.”


Eadweard Muybridge: Running Man (Time Out)
by Helen Sumpter

“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.”


Eadweard Muybridge: the moving story of a mysterious pioneer (Telegraph)
by Mark Hudson

“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.“


Eadweard Muybridge was a great pioneer, says Richard Dorment (Telegraph)

“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.”


19th century pioneer Eadweard Muybridge photos earn place in history at Tate Britain (culture 24)
by Mark Sheerin

“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.”


Eadweard Muybridge at Tate Britain (Financial Times)
by Simon Schama

“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

HELIOS arrives!

HELIOS Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change, Philip Brookman.

The book was delivered yesterday. It looks magnificent – with a different dust jacket from that originally shown in pre-publication publicity – and at 360 pages will take a while to absorb. Now I regret more than ever not being able to get to see the exhibition in Washington (which includes exhibits that won’t make it across to Tate Britain), but this publication is a wonderful permanent record. More about the book (lots more) soon.

Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change (Hardcover)
Philip Brookman, with contributions by, Marta Braun, Corey Keller, Rebecca Solnit, Andy Grundberg.

See a brief introduction to Muybridge by Philip Brookman on Vimeo:

and a longer piece with Brookman, The pioneer of photography, on BBC World News America here:

Keeping up with developments – exhibitions, publications, symposiums, websites, artworks, videos, (even) songs – is proving to be quite a task at the moment, and the momentum is likely to be maintained throughout the summer and into the autumn. As my friend Luke McKernan has observed, this truly is The Year of Muybridge.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Muybridge Yosemite

Sylvan Bar. Valley of the Yosemite

Photographer: Muybridge. Publisher: Bradley & Rulofson
(Online Archive of California web site: Valley of the Yosemite by Eadweard Muybridge, 1872.)

Click to enlarge. It’s beautiful.

Blog posts featuring Muybridge and his work vary greatly in quality, and most are not too interesting, but one in ten makes up for this. My favourite entry this month is on a blog by “Jeff” (that’s the only name I can find at present): SECONDAT:  “You have to study a great deal to know a little.” Pensees et Fragments Inedits de Montesquieu.

Muybridge Yosemite
In which I celebrate family and friends.

A few months back my sister sent me Rebecca Solnit’s River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. We both like taking pictures and both admire good photography. She thought I’d like the book and she was right. I thought at first I might find it tedious since I’m not particularly interested in the stop-action photos for which Muybridge is famous (and which he pioneered). But Solnit is an excellent critic, she writes well, and, I was pleased to discover, a lot of the photography is aesthetically more appealing than the motion studies. For Muybridge, it turns out, made many images of places and people in the “Wild West” of Solnit’s subtitle. Some of these, as she says, are not only innovative and technically ept, but also strikingly beautiful. The book’s frustration is that it describes but does not show this beauty. The few photographs that it contains are, in my Penguin paperback copy, dreadfully reproduced.

Enter my friend John. He noticed that the Corcoran Gallery here in Washington DC has mounted a very large exhibit of Muybridge’s work: Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change. It’s on view through July 18, 2010. ….When John said what he would be going, I asked if the show included any of the (reputedly) great Yosemite photos and when he said it did I leapt at the opportunity to join him on a visit there this past weekend. I wasn’t disappointed. There were room after room of stereographs along with many medium-format and mammoth-plate images, lots of them from Yosemite.

I particularly wanted to see the mammoth-plate ones. They’re big, as the name suggests: each at least 17 inches high and 21.5 inches wide. As are all his photos, they’re also direct images from the photo plates — contact prints rather than enlargements.

Muybridge observed the general design principles then common, including fore-, mid-, and background elements to convey a sense of depth, but, unlike others, he would show debris in foreground — flotsom, fallen limbs, brush, stream-wash, and the like.

This aspect of Muybridge’s landscape work was first brought to my attention some fifteen years ago by the then Curator of Kingston Museum, Paul Hill. Paul had developed a perceptive appreciation of the Yosemite photographs despite being limited almost entirely to viewing only reproductions, mostly of quite poor quality, and his enthusiasm for them dragged me away from the Zoopraxiscope material for just long enough to make a mental note to investigate further. That didn’t really happen, which is one reason I’m looking forward to the Tate Britain’s “Helios” exhibition later this summer – a unique opportunity to wallow in Muybridge landscapes.

Jeff’s blog entry is well worth a visit, with informed comments on several specific Yosemite images by Muybridge, and some by other image-makers.


Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Robert Bartlett Haas dies at 94


Robert Bartlett Haas dies at 94
By Keith Thursby, Los Angeles Times

May 18, 2010


Robert Bartlett Haas, a longtime UCLA educator who spent years immersed in the writings of Gertrude Stein, has died. He was 94.

Haas died April 20 in a hospital in Nuertingen, Germany, after a brief illness, said his son, Peter. He had spent most of his retirement years in Germany.

Haas was born Jan. 20, 1916, in Santa Cruz. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley in 1938, a master’s in English from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in education from Stanford.

He joined the UCLA faculty in 1949 and was the founding director of the school’s arts and humanities extension division. Peter Haas said the program was envisioned as a way for teachers to broaden their skills with additional courses on a variety of subjects. Haas stayed with the program until his retirement in the late 1970s.

Haas “was one of the young men who sought out Gertrude Stein as a mentor and was rewarded with years of encouragement and friendship and who, in turn, devoted a measure of his academic life to bolstering Stein’s reputation,” Timothy Young, curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, told The Times in an e-mail. Young cataloged Stein’s papers at Yale.

“My dad was a very complex guy,” Peter Haas said. “He was kind of a little avant-garde, and Gertrude Stein was certainly an avant-garde poet.” Among his books about Stein was “A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein,” published in 1971, in which he is credited as editor.

Our own subject gets just a one-line mention in the Los Angeles Times obituary:

Haas also wrote a 1976 biography of pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge, “Muybridge: Man in Motion,” and edited “William Grant Still and the Fusion of Cultures in American Music,” a 1972 book about an African American composer and conductor.

Hass is also survived by another son, Robin, and longtime partner Ia Wech. His first wife, Louise Krause Haas, died in 1982, and a second marriage ended in divorce.

Robert Haas worked on his Eadweard Muybridge book for more than two decades. “Muybridge: Man in Motion,” and Gordon Hendricks’ biography of Muybridge, are still key references for historians working today.

Robert Bartlett Haas donated his Muybridge-related research papers and notes to Kingston Museum, UK, where they may be accessed by prior arrangement.


Corcoran Muybridge Lectures

The first lectures to tie in to the exhibition Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change, are:

Muybridge and the Evolution of Landscapes

Wednesday, April 07, 2010    7 p.m.

A fascination with the American West inspired Eadweard Muybridge in the 19th century, as well as acclaimed photographer Mark Klett and celebrated essayist and noted cultural historian Rebecca Solnit in the 20th and 21st. To complement the exhibition Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change, Klett and Solnit discuss their collaborations on projects that probe and re-examine Muybridge’s photographic explorations of the changing physical and cultural landscapes of the West.

The Places In Between: Arachne Aerial Arts
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 7 p.m.

Arachne Aerial Arts takes Cirque du Soleil’s astonishing acrobatics and makes them relevant. –Kim Rinehimer, Washington City Paper

In the spirit of Muybridge’s studies of motion and bodies in space, Washington’s award-winning acrobatic duo, Arachne Aerial Arts, returns to the Corcoran’s atrium for an evening of breathtaking suspended artistry. Combining the drama of aerial acrobatics with the artistry of dance, they perform selections from their new full-length show, The Places In Between, which conjures places real and imagined, and the spaces in between. The company is joined by Washington’s dynamic chamber ensemble, Kenyon Piano Quartet.

Members: $35.00 Public: $40.00

Interpreting Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 7 p.m.

While best known for his studies of human and animal locomotion, 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge was also an innovative landscape artist and pioneer of documentary subjects. The enormous impact of his photographs can be measured throughout the course of modern art, from paintings and sculptures by Marcel Duchamp and Francis Bacon, to the 1999 blockbuster film The Matrix. Join Philip Brookman, the Corcoran’s chief curator and head of research, and curator of the exhibition, as he discusses Muybridge’s life and career, the artist’s relationship with the Corcoran, and the incredible relevance of his artwork today.

Members: $0.00 Public: $10.00

Corcoran Gallery of Art

500 Seventeenth Street NW Washington, DC 20006
Gallery:  (202) 639-1700
College: (202) 639-1800

More here:


What is  Muy Blog?

The Space Between Time

The Space Between Time, ABC Radio National, 10 May 2008 (Australia)

“This is a study of the man who made the movies possible – pioneer photographer Edward Muybridge who began taking large format photographs of iconic landscapes of the American West and then caught the eye of the railway pioneer Leland Standford who supported his innovations. Muybridge eventually created cameras (and film stock) that really did ‘stop time’ and his work still inspires young slo-mo video artists Shaun Gladwell and Daniel Crooks (who ‘slices’ time with software).

Radio Producer Tony Barrell also talks to Muybridge biographer Rebecca Solnit about his strange obsession, scandalous life and then asks astro-physicist Paul Davies if he thinks it’s possible that time could be made of particles – and if so, what’s in between? Presented by Brent Clough.”

This well crafted and interesting Australian radio programme was originallly broadcast around 2003, repeated in 2008, and is now available as a free Podcast here:

In full flow shortly after the publication of her book River of Shadows – the alternative title Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge is more appropriate here – Rebecca Solnit tells of the man who thought of himself as an artist, and went into science to make work for artists. Be perplexed by the conceptually mindblowing concepts of chronons (the elements of time), the aesthetics of slow motion, Zeno’s Paradox, quantum activity in empty space, skateboarding meditation, and not forgetting temporal grouting and time-slicing. All interspersed with and related to Eadweard Muybridge and his work, of course. Well worth the half-hour or so listening time.

(The image above, Eadweard J. Muybridge tribute,  is included on this post as I thought it chimed with the subject. So much Muybridge-related artwork on the web now. This can be seen in context here: http://www.jakubuhlik.com/
When you get there, look for picture title bottom right.)