Tate to exhibit photographer whose pioneering work inspired 'The Matrix'
Wednesday 28 April 2010
He was a 19th-century pioneer in the emerging art of photography whose images have since inspired a host of artists, including classical composers, film directors and the rock band U2.
Now, the Anglo-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge is to be the subject of a major retrospective at the Tate Britain.
Muybridge, who is best known for his photographic portrayal of animal and human subjects in motion, was also a successful documentary artist, war correspondent and inventor.
The exhibition in the autumn will also include previously unseen images of lighthouses on the west coast of America, which were initially commissioned by the United States Coastguard but have been buried in the organisation's files ever since and have never been on public display.
Muybridge was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1830 and studied photography before building his career in America. His "zoopraxiscope", a pioneering device for projecting motion pictures which pre-dated the film strip, inspired the U2 video "Lemon" and the fight scenes in the film The Matrix. The details of his life are as intriguing as his work. In 1874 he discovered that his wife had a lover called Major Harry Larkyns, whom he immediately sought out.
Upon meeting Larkyns, he is said to have announced: "Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife." He then shot him dead.
Muybridge was put on trial for murder, but was acquitted after he claimed Larkyns was the true father of his son and that the deed was therefore a "justifiable homicide". It was a defence which became progressively shaky as the boy, whom he had placed in an orphanage, bore an increasing resemblance to Muybridge as he grew older.
It helped that he had friends in high places – his criminal defence was paid for by the Governor of California, Leland Stanford. If the story sounds familiar, it may be because it later provided the story for Philip Glass's opera The Photographer.
In 1877, purportedly to settle a bet with Stanford, Muybridge pointed 25 cameras controlled by trip wires at a horse, proving a widely held theory that, when galloping, there is a point when the animals completely lift all four hoofs off the ground.
The exhibition runs from 8 September to 16 January at the Tate Britain in London.
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