Wednesday 8 September – Saturday 16 January 2010

The pioneering Anglo-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is the subject of a major retrospective at Tate Britain this autumn. Bringing together over 150 works, this exhibition demonstrates how Muybridge broke new ground in the emerging art form of photography. From his iconic images of motion to depictions of the sublime landscapes of America, the exhibition will present the full range of Muybridge’s work, exploring how he created and honed remarkable images that continue to resonate powerfully.

Born in Kingston upon Thames in April 1830, Muybridge pursued his photographic career entirely in America. Perhaps best known for his extensive photographic portrayal of animal and human subjects in motion, he was also a highly successful landscape and survey photographer, documentary artist, war correspondent and inventor. Muybridge’s revolutionary techniques produced timeless images that have profoundly influenced generations of photographers, filmmakers and artists, including Francis Bacon, Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, and Douglas Gordon.

This broadly chronological exhibition focuses on the period of rapid technological and cultural change from the late 1860s to 1904. It includes the celebrated early experimental series of motion-capture photographs such as The Attitudes of Animals in Motion 1881, and the later sequence Animal Locomotion 1887. It also considers how Muybridge constructed, manipulated and presented these photographs and will feature his original Zoopraxiscope, which projected his images of suspended motion to create the illusion of movement.

Muybridge’s carefully managed studio photographs contrast with his panoramic landscapes of America, in which he balanced professionalism with a truly artistic sensibility. He was fascinated by change and progress and his photographs recorded both the natural beauty of this vast continent, and the rapid colonial modernisation of its towns and cities. The exhibition includes many of his series of images of the Yosemite Valley, along with views of Alaska, Guatemala, urban panoramas of San Francisco, and his 1869 survey of the construction of the Eastward bound Railroad through California, Nevada and Utah. These photographs form a unique social document of this fascinating period of history, as well as representing a profound achievement of technological innovation and artistic originality.

Muybridge travelled between Britain, America and Europe throughout his career, giving immensely popular public lectures with the aid of lantern slides and his Zoopraxiscope. In 1874 while living in San Francisco he shot his wife’s lover and had her son placed in an orphanage, but was subsequently acquitted of the crime as a ‘justifiable homicide’, a story retold in Philip Glass’s opera The Photographer. He returned to England in 1894, and died at home in Kingston in 1904.

The exhibition was conceived by Philip Brookman, Chief Curator, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington and curated at Tate Britain by Ian Warrell, Curator of 18th and 19th century British Art, and Carolyn Kerr, Head of Programme Management. The exhibition is organised by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. A fully illustrated catalogue, published by Tate Publishing, is available.

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