Eadweard Muybridge

You are currently browsing articles tagged Eadweard Muybridge.

I’ve posted before about Eadweard Muybridge, genius of nascent cinema who wound up on trial for murder. There’s a new book about him, The Inventor and the Tycoon, which receives a beautifully written review this week in the New York Times by Candice Millard. The opening:

“Genius, it seems, is almost always accompanied by eccentricity, if not madness. Those rare instances of genuine brilliance that we find scattered throughout history — in the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, the mathematical equations of John Nash — often appear to have come at great cost to the minds that produced them. The work of Eadweard Muybridge is no exception.

While Muybridge’s photographs are widely known, his personal life has been largely neglected, which seems incredible now that, in Edward Ball’s engrossing book, The Inventor and the Tycoon, we have the whole fascinating story, full of strange and surprising details. At the height of his genius, Muybridge, a British immigrant whose stunning advancements in photography in the mid-to-late 1800s astonished the world and gave rise to the motion picture industry, looked and generally lived like a vagabond. He dressed in clothing so tattered that his uncombed, usually unwashed, hair poked out of holes in his hat, and his pants threatened to fall off in pieces as he walked. He ate cheese flies, tiny insects that hover around the tops of old cheese and that he used to gather up into packages and snack on as he brooded over his photographs. Then there was the small matter of the murder.

In 1874, just a year after one of his most important breakthroughs, when he was well into the work that would make him famous, Muybridge killed a man.”


Photographer and locomotion pioneer Eadweard Muybridge, who miraculously made still photographs dance and gallop, was born on April 9th 182 years ago. He’s celebrated by a Google Doodle.

From Thom Andersen’s 1975 documentary, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer:


In 1874, Muybridge shot and killed his wife’s lover, Harry Larkyns, in a crime of passion. He was acquitted and his wife succumbed to a stroke soon thereafter. The baby born of the extramarital affair was raised in an orphanage. From Stanford Magazine: “THE OPERATIC EPISODE began on October 17, 1874, when Muybridge discovered his wife’s adultery. In 1872, he had married a 21-year-old divorcée named Flora Stone. When she bore a son in the spring of 1874, Muybridge believed that the child, Floredo Helios Muybridge, was his own–until he came across letters exchanged between Flora and a drama critic named Harry Larkyns. The most damning evidence was a photo of Floredo enclosed with one of the letters: Flora had captioned it ‘Little Harry.’

Convinced he’d been cuckolded, Muybridge collapsed, wept and wailed, according to a nurse who was present. That night, he tracked Larkyns to a house near Calistoga and shot him through the heart.

At his murder trial in 1875, the jury rejected an insanity plea but accepted the defense of justifiable homicide, finding Muybridge not guilty of murder. After the acquittal, Muybridge sailed for Central America and spent the next year in ‘working exile.’

Tags: , ,