Eadweard Muybridge
in Bonaventure


Animal Locomotion

On the boardwalk, near the tourist information office | 93 Avenue de Port Royal | Bonaventure

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), London, England

Of British origin, Eadweard Muybridge settled in the United States in 1855 and earned a solid reputation as a landscaper in the American West. He is nevertheless known mostly for his research into the representation of motion, which stemmed from a meeting with industrialist Leland Stanford, whose property included a horse breeding ranch.

From 1872 to 1878, Muybridge developed a sophisticated system for picture taking today known by the term chronophotography. Animals were photographed in front of a calibrated backdrop. Positioned perpendicularly to that backdrop, he used 12 cameras equipped with Dallmayer stereoscopic lenses capable of taking pictures at 1/1000th of a second. The horses, as they moved, triggered the specially designed and electrically operated shutters.

That photographic technique made it possible to prove, from a scientific point of view, that a horse’s gallop is an asymmetrical three-beat gait followed by a moment of suspension during which none of the animal’s feet touches the ground.

The results of those experiments – which allowed people to see what the human eye had never registered – were published in the California press and afterwards in the prestigious American journal Scientific American, followed by journals in London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna.

Because of his work on the decomposition of movement, Eadweard Muybridge is today regarded as one of the precursors of motion pictures.


Animal Locomotion

In 1887, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, Muybridge published 11 volumes of photographs under the title Animal Locomotion. Each of the plates showed views of the same subject taken at successive phases of a motion. Over 500 of those plates were devoted to human subjects, about 100 to horses shown at different gaits, and 120 to various animals: deer, elephants, dogs, pigs, bulls, lions and other felines, and parrots.

The nine images presented at Bonaventure come from photo archives managed by celebrated museums and public collections, including Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington and the Art Resources Consortium in New York.