A life in Motion – Muybridge

Eadward Muybridge


Francis Bacon was a great fan of the pioneer film photographer Eadward Muybridge  b. 1883 – 1904 (strange way of spelling Edward I know, but I believe this is the original way of spelling his name in Anglo Saxon)  Muybridge is famous for his study of motion in film. 

Bacon's Woman emptying a bowl and Paralyctic child


Though born in Surry England, he moved to the USA when he was a young man and in  1868 he became world renown for his Yosemite Valley, California photo’s.  He was famously hired by Leland Stanford, a railway magnate to prove that a trotting horse’s  legs all leave the ground at the same point in time.  The project was fraught with difficulties though: one of them being the lack of a fast shutter and the photographer having to be in court when he was tried for the murder of his wife’s lover.  Though acquitted, he travelled around  lot after this. 

He did eventually prove Stanford’s theory (by developing a faster shutter) and a lot of line drawings were published, taken from his photographs.  He gave many lectures, using a zoopraxiscope, which was a kind of magic lantern which projected the images onto a screen in rapid succession. 

Muybridge horse in motion


Yosemite Valley c. 1874


Apart from the animal plates, Muybridge is well-known for his study of the human form in motion.  these were published in 1887 and called ‘Animal Locomotion – An Electro Photographic investigation of consecutive phases of Animal Movement. 

Some more reading about Muybridge, his discoveries, experiments and life from here   and here
Animated Gif (racehorse) from here Yosemite valley pic from here video from autostopowicz70 (Philip Glass Photographer Act 1 ‘A Gentlemans Honour’.  Bacon image here Muybridge portrait from here

12 thoughts on “A life in Motion – Muybridge

  1. We are still fascinated by his images. I know many artists who feel indebted to Muybridge’s work and reference it often.

  2. Cool post, Lynda. Did your reference source say trotting horse or galloping? I believe it is galloping when a horse’s four legs leave the ground. Perhaps a harness trotter does, also.

      1. I loved the post because I did not pick up his name but have seen and read of his work. The only reason I asked is that I trained riding horses and, of course, that topic is discussed. However, I do believe that a harness racing horse who trots may have a moment in time (at great speed) where all feet may leave the ground. I found this extremely interesting.

  3. I never knew you trained horses Leslie! Though I believe the first paintings I ever saw of yours were of horses, now I think of it. I like the heavy horses that draw the ploughs – beautiful creatures:)

    1. Great thought, Lynda! I like to think the same thing, but when I visit the areas inhabited by the Amish, today, I can’t help but feel a little sad for the things they have to face in a modernized world. Horses feet and legs aren’t designed to be pounding pavement and there have been far too many accidents with buggies and people and horses involved. They travel so far to go to grocery and even though some of the stores have set up sheds and hitching posts they are in the middle of hot blacktop. The idea is rich and vibrant of living off the land but most of the Amish men have to seek work outside the farm and end up with the hard labor jobs of roofing and homebuilding. Then they go home to farm the fields and tend the livestock. Their days are long and full of hardship. I respect their faith.

      1. I never realised that they had to seek work outside Leslie! That sort of the defeats the object – living off the land. You have to admire their perserverence though, and they do have a lot of faith – and they are managing to survive without compromising it, so they must be doing something right!

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