THE COMPLEAT EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE: THE ROYAL INSTITUTION 1882


The following review from The Photographic News appeared on the first page of the 17 March 1882 issue. The writer refers to artists' depictions of a galloping horse: 'it was "absurd" to see a galloping horse depicted with all four feet off the ground, a simple impossibility.' He has misinterpreted Muybridge's point, which was that the old 'rocking horse' position (with all four legs splayed, and off the ground) was ludicrous - but Muybridge also showed that a galloping horse did indeed have all for feet of the ground, but in a manner not shown in paintings. (Another item from p.137 of the same issue of The Photographic News appears further down this page)

MR. MUYBRIDGE AT THE ROYAL INSTITUTION.

BEFORE a distinguished audience, which included H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh - a distinguished photographer, it may be remembered - the Poet Laureate, the President of the Royal Society, and most of the managing body of the Royal Institution, Mr. Muybridge, of San Francisco, gave, on Monday, his first public demonstration in this country. Mr. Muybridge might well be proud of the reception accorded him, for it would have been difficult to add to the eclat of such first appearance, and throughout his lecture he was welcomed by a warmth that was as hearty as it was spontaneous.

Mr. Muybridge wisely left his wonderful pictures to speak for him, instead of making the occasion the subject of a long oration. He showed his photographs one after another on the screen by the aid of an electric lantern, and modestly explained them in clear but plain language. In this way the demonstration was at once rendered entertaining as well as interesting.

Mr. Muybridge first explained his plan of securing such rapid pictures of animals in motion. He showed a representation of his "studio" to begin with; it was like that portion of a race-course to be found opposite the grand stand. This latter building was, in effect, a camera stand, and a very grand one, into the bargain, for it contained twenty-four cameras in a row, the lenses a foot apart, all looking on to the course. As the animal passed, these cameras, with their instantaneous shutters, were fired off one after another by electricity. Thin linen threads, breast high, and a foot apart, were stetched across the course, and as the animal broke these threads, they, being connected, each of them, with a camera, brought about the exposure. The instantaneous shutter in each case simply consisted of two little planks, one to move upwards, and the other to move downwards, in front of the lens by rubber springs; the tension of these latter is very great - equal to 100 lb., Mr. Muybridge said - and the exposure was claculated to be not more than 1/5000 of a second. Whether this calculation is correct or no, certain it is that the spokes of a trotting carriage were shown very sharp, and there was hardly a movement visible in any of the animal pictures.

We may mention here that all his photographs were taken on wet plates, for they were secured four years ago. Iron was employed in their development, and no additional care or particular method was had recourse to.

Mr. Muybridge, by way of comparisoon, first threw on the screen a series of artist's sketches of the horse in motion, some of them old-world esigns of the Egyptians and Greeks, some very modern, including the principle animal from Rosa Bonheur's well-known "Horse Fair." In no single instance had he been able to discover a correct drawing of the horse in motion, and, to prove his statement, he then threw on the screen several series of pictures representing the different positions taken up by a horse as he walks, trots, ambles, canters, or gallops. One thing was very plain from Mr. Muybridge's pictures, namely that when a horse has two of his feet suspended between two supporting feet, the suspended feet are invariably lateral; that is to say, both suspended feet are on the same side of the animal. This, no painter - ancient or modern - had ever discovered. Then the amble was found to be different from the canter, and the canter very different again from the gallop; although most people imagined that, to perform all these, the horse used his legs in the same fashion. Mr. Muybridge was at some difficulty to describe the amble, and it seemed at one time as if it would be necessary to call upon Mr. Tennyson to to give a definition of it in his well known lines: "Property, property, propery!" but he succeeded subsequently in defining the step very satisfactorily afterwards by means of his pictures.

After Mr. Muybridge had shown his audience the quainty and (apparently) impossible positions that the horse assumes in his different gaits, he then most ingeniously combined the pictures on the screen, showing the one after another so rapidly, that the audience had before them the galloping horse, the trotting horse, &c. Nay, Mr. Muybridge, by means of his zoepracticoscope, showed the horse taking a hurdle- how it lifted itself for the spring, and how it lightly dropped upon its feet again. This pleasing display was the essence of life and reality. A new world of sights and wonders was, indeed, opened by photography, which was not less astounding because it was truth itself.

After these life-like pictures, it needed not Mr. Muybridge's dictum that to use a mild term it was "absurd" to see a galloping horse depicted with all four feet off the ground, a simple impossibility. And of this held good of one horse, what must be said of ten horses, thus painted, as was the case in Frith's "Derby Day," which Mr. Muybridge projected on the screen by way of comparison, and which the clever photographer described as a miracle.

Mr. Muybridge modestly calls his series of animals in motion - they include horse, dog, deer, bull, pig, &c.- simply preliminary results. They contain little or no half-tone, and are only proof of what may be done. What he desires now to secure, if he only received sufficient encouragement, is a series of photographic "pictures," and these, with the experience he has now acquired, and with the gelatine process to help him, should be well within his reach. We only trust this encouragement will be forthcoming, and that Mr. Muybridge will be tempted to carry on the difficult work he has commenced with such genuine success.

The Photographic News 17 March 1882, p.137

"I should like to see your boxing pictures," said the Prince of Wales to Mr. Muybridge on Monday at the Royal Institution, when the galloping horse, the running deer, the trotting bull, the halting pig, and the racing dogs had successively crossed the screen in life-like measure. "I shall be very happy to show them, your Royal Highness," responded the clever photographer; and promptly tghere was thrown upon the screen two athletes, who pounded away at one another right merrily, to the infinite delight of the audience in general and the Prince of Wales in particular.

Mr. Muybridge, in this case, had taken rapid successive pictiures of a pair of boxers as they assumed one fighting position after another, and then these photographs were rapidly thrown on the screen in the same order by means of his zoopracticoscope. This a boxing-match was reproduced in all its photographic reality. "I don't know that these pictures teach us anything useful," said Mr. Muybridge, "but they are generally found amusing."

Mr. Muybridge's "boxing match" may call to mind the steam engine in motion, of which we ourselves secured a photograph in 1870, when working with Sir Charles Wheatstone. Sir Charles had invented an instrument similar to Mr. Muybridge's zoepractiscope, and asked our aid to furnish the necessary pictures. We produced two series, one of a steam-engine, and another of an infantry soldier going through the bayonet exercise. Our work, however, was very simple compared to Mr. Muybridge's. To secure the steam-engine in motion, we merely had to produce thirteen photographs; the engine was at rest, and we simply turned the fly-wheel one-thirteenth of a revolution between each picture. The result many of our readers may have seen; the engine moved, but rather slowly, as if it were slackening speed.

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