Muybridge: The Horse In Motion Analysis
For the midterm analysis I have chosen to analyze Edward Muybridge’s study of a galloping horse, The Horse in Motion, 1878. It is important to have a little background information on Edward Muybridge; who he was, what he did, where he came from, etc. Born Edward Muggeridge in a small town at Kingston upon Thames, upriver from London, he later changed his name to Edward James Muybridge before moving across the ocean. Muybridge moved to San Francisco in 1855, taking up photography from a daguerreotypist and working for photographer Carleton Watkins. Muybridge gained popularity with his phenomenal images of Yosemite and Alaska. However, it is before those famous works he was hired by Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University, to photograph horses. It is important to note that Stanford had placed a bet that for a moment, all four of the racehorse’s horses are off the ground simultaneously and he had hired Muybridge to prove him right. It is due to this bet, and continuous photographic study following it, that we understand animal, human, and object movement, as we know it today. Because of Muybridge’s study artists were able to paint more accurate images of animals and people; People are better able to understand how the world works. Today we use locomotion studies in physics and other school courses. The Horse in Motion represents the turning point of the cameras usage as an art, as a learning tool, and it represents the camera being accepted in the modern world. It represents the start of a camera revolution, of the second printed matter revolution, following the type revolution of the 1400’s, and of a century long exploration between photograph and experimentation.
In order to capture the horse in motion Muybridge had to set up a series of cameras linked to tripwires and have the horse run down the race track in order to prove that all four of the horses’ hooves come off the ground at once. It is because of this series of twelve images shot in rapid succession, put together in a three by four grid-like system of sequential order, of a horse galloping across a racetrack filled with cameras on tripwire that Muybridge was able to prove that the human eye missed details in the real world. The Horse in Motion is a photo-collography image series, created using the dichromate-based collotype process invented by Alphonse Poitevin (1856), , which shows up several times throughout his career and seems to be one of Muybridge’s popular methods. Photo-Collography is similar in style to daguerreotype, collodion prints, and calotypes all of which are centuries old photo-processing techniques that produce a wide variety of color finishes, tints, textures, and reproducibility.
The iconic Horse in Motion image marked the start of Muybridge’s locomotion studies that lasted for several years, and earned him a teaching spot at the University of Pennsylvania where Muybridge lectured in America, and Europe at the start of 1880. Throughout his career he showed his locomotion studies on the screen with a Zoopraxiscope projector, which was an early device for displaying motion pictures. Muybridge created it in 1879 to showcase his work, and it may even be considered the first movie projector. The zoopraxiscope projected images from rotating glass disks in rapid succession to give the impression of motion.
The silhouetted images, which derived from his sequence photographs, were painted around the edge of the large glass disc. Which earned him a grant of $40,000 from the University of Pennsylvania to carry out his work there. During which time Muybridge produced more than 100,000 sequence photographs using the gelatin or dry plate process, invented by Dr. Richard L Maddox in 1871, 20,000 of which would be later reproduced and published in the book Animal Locomotion folios in 1887. It was at this point Muybridge decided to return to his birthplace in England in 1894, and continued out his studies, as well as lecture throughout Great Britain. He finished out his career with one last publication in 1901, The Human Figure in Motion.
Muybridge’s work with sequential photography helped pioneer the science of chrono-photography. The Horse in Motion photographic study captured the imperceptible to the naked eye but apparent through photography the exact moment when the four hooves are off the ground. The Muybridge photographic locomotion studies start the conversation of how motion works, how the naked eye misses the smallest details, how physics plays a role in everything we do. His study challenged the norms of the time, and was challenged by many critics. After all the first camera that opened up photography to the middle class didn’t make it’s appearance until 1888. Meaning that most American’s had only been seeing images since 1851.
It is very apparent that Muybridge’s Horse in Motion has influenced contemporary artists today. Take Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Alex Katz, George Segal, Ansel Adams, Marcel Duchamp, and Francis Bacon. The grid like system designed by Muybridge has been repeated over and over not just in art but also in architecture, nature, Fashion, etc. Grids are everywhere in the world. Another thing we notice with contemporary art is a resurgence of returning to the basics. A lot of artists are returning to black and white, simple layouts and design. There is a beauty in simplicity and Muybridge recognized that in all of his works. Another thing that Muybridge’s Horse locomotion study is influencing in today’s art world is the return of old school processing. A lot of artists are returning to century old photo processing, very much like Muybridge’s experimentation with his practice.
In conclusion, Muybride’s Horse in Motion was very influential in both the 1850’s and the 21st century. It marked the start of a revolution and the end of an era. Muybridge’s work will forever remain in the books as the locomotion study that influenced history.