Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is best known for his ground-breaking motion studies, which combined scientific innovation with a powerful artistic vision. Muybridge photographed men, women, children and a multitude of animals in sequences of motion, presenting each study in a grid pattern, creating both the first sequenced photographs of movement (he is considered a forefather of cinema), as well as a proto-modernist visual project that has influenced generations of photographers.
The most famous of Muybridge’s studies is the photographic proof he captured for former California governor and racehorse owner Leland Stanford that established that all four of a horse’s legs leave a ground as it trots or gallops. Muybridge’s experiments on the subject began in 1872, and by 1878, he had managed to capture a full series of images of Stanford’s horse Occident at full gallop, using a series of cameras set in a row. A string set in the horse’s path triggered each shutter, and the result was a cinematic series of stills, one of which clearly showed the horses’ hooves knit together, the horse and rider apparently flying through the air. The images caused a minor sensation.
Muybridge himself was something of a sensation. A native of England, he moved to the United States in 1855, working as a bookseller. In 1860, he suffered a major head injury after a stagecoach accident and spent five years convalescing in England, where it is believed he learned to make photographs. He returned to California to make magnificent large-format landscapes of the sublime Western scenery, often going to great lengths to achieve his chosen perspective. During this time he made his now-famous panorama of San Francisco.
A different perspective: turned 90 degrees clockwise, this image resembles a giant pine tree. Lot 7: Muybridge, Tutokanula, Valley of the Yosemite (The Great Chief), ‘El Capitan,’ Reflected in the Merced, albumen print, 1872. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000. At auction February 19.
By the end of his life Muybridge possessed a long white beard and hair and piercing eyes, and was known for eccentric behavior and dress. He changed his name several times during the course of his life, for a while publishing his landscapes under the name Helios. In 1874, he was famously acquitted for murdering his wife’s lover.