Notes from the Catalogue: Eadweard Muybridge – The Innovator

In the printed catalogue for Swann’s upcoming sale of Fine Photographs, at auction February 19, our Photographs Department profiles some of their favorite photographers. 

Lot 5: Eadweard Muybridge, Horse and Rider Motion Study (composite), albumen print, 1881.
Estimate $10,000 to $15,000. At auction February 19, 2015.

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.

Lot 8: Muybridge, Nude Man Swinging Sledge Hammer, Plate 396 from “Animal Locomotion,” collotype, 1887.
Estimate $1,000 to $1,500. At auction February 19.

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.

Lot 6: Muybridge, Horse and Rider Motion Study (composite), albumen print, 1881.
Estimate $10,000 to $15,000. At auction February 19.

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.

Lot 9: Muybridge, Nude Woman Spinning with Diaphanous Cloth, Plate 416 from “Animal Locomotion,” collotype, 1887. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.