Eadweard Muybridge: Animal Locomotion exhibition

Opening this week, the Beetles + Huxley gallery in London presents a series of prints made by Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge as part of his pioneering ‘Animal Locomotion’ project

The work, which eventually ran to over 100,000 images, was carried out as research for the University of Pennsylvania between 1884 and 1887 and documents a series of human and animal subjects, each carrying out a single action.

The sequential pictures would become Muybridge’s artistic trademark but they also contributed to wider biological science, specifically to an understanding of the movement of the body.

Top of post: ‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 318 (Man Lifting Ball to his Shoulder), 1887 © Eadweard Muybridge. Image courtesy of Beetles+Huxley. Above: ‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 720 (Cat Running at Speed), 1887’ © Eadweard Muybridge. Image courtesy of Beetles+Huxley

Muybridge’s many subjects are depicted doing a number of mundane activities, such as walking down stairs, lifting up a skirt, or jumping over a stool, as well as engaging in more athletic pursuits, from boxing to wrestling, horse-riding and fencing.

‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 628 (Man Riding Galloping Horse), 1887’ © Eadweard Muybridge. Image courtesy of Beetles+Huxley.

His work also furthered an understanding of the physiology of the animal world, with sequences capturing a bird’s wings in flight and, most famously, revealing what happens to a horse’s legs when running at a gallop. In 1872 Muybridge was able to prove that, for a split second, all four legs are off the ground.

‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 156 (Woman Leaping Over Stool), 1887′ © Eadweard Muybridge. Image courtesy of Beetles+Huxley

Muybridge was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in London in 1830 but emigrated to America when he was 20.

While he is thought to have taken up photography while recovering after an accident back in Britain, he made his name as a photographic artist when he returned to the US – firstly as a landscape photographer, then as a government war photographer, before working with a series of multiple cameras that could be triggered by trip wires to produce ground-breaking sequential images.

The new exhibition will present 65 collotypes prints made by Muybridge in 1887 for the Animal Locomotion project.

Eadweard Muybridge: Animal Locomotion runs from July 19 to September 2 at the Beetles + Huxley gallery, 3-5 Swallow Street, London W1B 4DE. See beetlesandhuxley.com

‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 765 (Crow in Flight), 1887′ © Eadweard Muybridge. Image courtesy of Beetles+Huxley
‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 640 (Man Riding a Jumping Horse),  1887’ © Eadweard Muybridge. Image courtesy of Beetles+Huxley
‘Animal Locomotion: Plate 617 (Nude Man Riding Horse), 1887’ © Eadweard Muybridge. Image courtesy of Beetles+Huxley.

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