Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Zoopraxiscope -- July 27, 2014

From The British Journal of Photography, June 9 and 16, and July 28, 1882.  Miss Thompson was Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler.  Étienne-Jules Marey was a pioneering chronophotographer. 
I assume M Meissonier is the painter Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier.  Thomas Protheroe was a Bristol photographer. 

The illustration is from "The Horse in Motion" by George Waritig, Jr, in The Century; a popular quarterly / Volume 24, Issue 3, July 1882:

June 9, 1882

Mr. MUYBRIDGE At Liverpool.—On Monday evening last, the 5th inst., at the Liverpool Art Club, in Upper Parliament-street, Mr. E. Muybridge delivered a lecture on The Attitudes of Animals in Motion. Mr. Benson Rathbone presided, and introduced the lecturer. There was a large attendance of members of the Club and their friends, and the lecture, which was similar to that recently delivered at the Royal Institution, London, and which attracted great attention at the time, was listened to throughout with the deepest attention. It was illustrated by photographic projections of the consecutive attitudes assumed by various animals in rapid motion—particularly the galloping of a horse—these being shown by the aid of the oxyhydrogen light and the zoopraxiscope, by which the most complicated movements were readily analysed. The subject is one of the highest importance and interest to artists and scientists, and, though, as the lecturer explained, the motion of fignres had been shown in the earliest pictorial art, it will be remembered that the subject received a new impetus at the time of the public controversy which originated with Miss Thompson's Roll Call, the great question of that day among the art-critics being "How a horse walks." That and other recent pictures, as well as the inquiries of scientific men, aided as they have been by the discoveries brought about by the process of instantaneous photography, have originated new ideas with regard to animal motion; but the recent lecture demonstrated some most extraordinary truths, which will be of the greatest benefit to art. On Thursday evening last Mr. Muybridge repeated his demonstration, before a large and appreciative audience interested in photography, at the private residence of Mr. John J. Atkinson, Upper Parliament street. All present expressed themselves pleased and instructed by Mr. Muybridge's treatment of his novel and most important topic. We understand an elaborate work upon the above subject is in preparation, in which Professor Marey and M. Messonier will co-operate. This is intended to be a perfect exposition of the art of illustrating the attitudes of animals in motion from the earliest period to the present time. The volume will be issued under the auspices of Mr. Robert C. Johnson, of San Francisco—a wealthy and enthusiastic patron of art.

June 16, 1882

On Thursday evening, the 8th inst., Mr. J. J. Atkinson invited a number of artists, scientists, photographers, and others to his residence, 140, Upper Parliament-street, Liverpool, to witness Mr. Muybridge, of San Francisco, give his seance representing quadrupeds, bipeds, and birds in motion, illustrated by means of the zoopraxiscope, as briefly noticed in our last issue.

Mr. Muybridge explained that the problem of animal mechanism had long engaged the attention of mankind. In every age and in every country philosophers have found it a subject of exhaustless research. M. Marey, the eminent French savant of our own day, dissatisfied with the investigations of his predecessors, and with the object of obtaining more accurate information than their works afforded him, employed a system of flexible tubes, connected at one end with elastic air chambers which were attached to the shoes of a horse, and at the other end with some mechanism held in the hand of the animal's rider. The alternate compression and expansion of the air in the chambers caused pencils to record upon a revolving cylinder the successive or simultaneous action of each foot as it correspondingly rested upon or was raised from the ground. By this ingenious and original method much interesting and valuable information was obtained, and new light thrown upon movements until then but imperfectly understood. While the philosopher was exhausting his endeavours to expound the laws that control and the elements that effect the movements associated with animal life, the artist, with but few exceptions, seems to have been satisfied and content with the observations of his earliest predecessors in design, and to have accepted as authentic, without further inquiry, the pictorial and sculptural representations of moving animals bequeathed from the remote ages of tradition.

Yet (Mr. Muybridge argued) the action of no single limb can be availed of for artistic purposes without a knowledge of the simultaneous action of the other limbs; and to the extreme difficulty of the mind being capable of appreciating the simultaneous motion of the four limbs of an animal may be attributed the innumerable errors into which artists have been betrayed. The walk of a quadruped would seem to be a simple action, easy of observation, and presenting but little difficulty for analysis; yet it has occasioned interminable controversies among the closest and most experienced observers. The remarkable conventional attitude of the Egyptians has, with few modifications, been used by artists of nearly every age to represent the action of galloping, and prevails in all civilised countries at the present day. A few eminent artists—notable among whom is M. Meissonier—have endeavoured, in depicting the movements of animals, to invoke the aid of truth instead of imagination to direct their pencils, but with little encouragement from their critics. Until recently, artists and critics alike have necessarily had to depend upon their observation alone to justify their conceptions or to support their theories. Photography was soon recognised as a most important factor in the search for truth; and he (Mr. Muybridge), being much interested with the experiments of the French professor Marey, invented, in 1877, a method for the employment of a number of photographic cameras— twenty-four—arranged in a line parallel to a track over which the animal would be caused to move, with the object of obtaining, at regulated intervals of time or distance, several consecutive impressions of him during a single complete stride as he passed along in front of the cameras, and so of more completely investigating the successive attitudes of animals while in motion than could be accomplished by the system of M. Marey.

Mr. Muybridge illustrated the action of the horse and other animals with the zoopraxiscope, showing the walk, tlie amble, the trot, the gallop, and the leap, with the animals in motion. One of the most graceful movements was that of the deer, though the greyhound also came in for much admiration. Some of the stationary photographs of horses foreshortened were most artistic, and will teach artists and sculptors what the true motions of quadrupeds and bipeds really are, and prevent them depicting impossible positions. Among other novelties not before exhibited in Liverpool was one representing a pair of light-weight boxers, which caused so much amusement to the Prince and Princess of Wales. The foot race, representing a number of professional runners working themselves along with their elbows, created much interest, as did also the photographs of vaulters and circus riders.
Altogether the lecture, though much curtailed in order to give more time to using the zoopraxiscope, was a most interesting one, and several of the guests questioned the lecturer freely as to how certain results were obtained. The moral of the lecture seems to be that it will soon be definitely established that the various motions of animals trotting, cantering, galloping, &c.—are governed by laws which are as fixed as the motion of a locomotive.

July 28, 1882

Gentlemen,—In reading the lecture by Mr. Muybridge before the Society of Arts one cannot but be struck with his refreshing assurance at the commencement, where he says that artists from all ages to the present time have been inaccurate in their notions in depicting animals in motion.
After reading the article and seeing the pictures of the animals he has photographed, I am of opinion that he is not warranted in his attempt to lecture and censure artists. An artist paints simply an impression of motion as he sees it, as it is impossible for him to see the subdivision of motion or section of a stride; and until we are endowed with further visual powers we must remain contented.
In some of the pictures a horse is represented motionless, the fore limbs standing still, while the hindermost are in what appears extravagant motion, such as I have never seen it in life. When a horse rises to a fence it is impossible to see his hind pasterns horizontal. Again: fancy a bird in flight painted with its wings folded under it, or a running dog with his legs gathered up as if in a knot! It may be right photographically, but is wrong artistically. To give a notion of hunters, or a pack of hounds in full cry, they must be painted as we see them— with their limbs stretched to the utmost, "tearing away like mad."
Another illustration: if the spokes of a wheel in motion are perfectly seen as represented by instantaneous photography, and an artist were to paint them so, we should have no idea of motion, as they always appear as a blurred circle, and must, therefore, be so painted. Instantaneous photography, in many instances, might be termed photographic juggllng or a glimpse of the unseen—a practical illustration of a line from Longfellow, that ''things are not what they seem."

The lecture and illustrations are, undoubtedly, of great interest to the scientist or the curious as studies of analyses of motion; bnt beyond that, I fear, will be of little use. Probably they may be the means of starting a new school of fanatics in painting, who will stand the chance of being laughed at for their pains, in trying to depict what is right photographically, but is never seen with the unassisted eye, and therefore incongruous.
Persons who are interested in this matter should study the pictures referred to—not with the aid of the zoopraxiscope, but simply as they are; and I leave them to judge whether they seem correct with their own idea of animals in motion.—I am, yours, &c, T. Protheroe,
Bristol, July 24, 1882.

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