Weston Naef Says Early Muybridge Photos Are Not by Muybridge

Modern Art Notes has an interview with Getty Museum curator emeritus of photographs Weston Naef that lays out reasons why pre-1872 photographs published by Eadweard Muybridge are likely the work of others. Naef notes that Muybridge had not learned photography when he returned to his native Britain from California in 1860. When he came back to California seven or eight years later he immmediately began publishing accomplished photographs. Yet, there is no record of his membership in any British photographic association, nor any surviving image attributed to him that depicts a British subject.

Is this "Muybridge" actually by Carleton Watkins? Eadweard Muybridge, Tokoya and Hunto. Valley of the Yosemite. (The Basket,) (The Watching Eye,) 3,568 feet high. No. 24, 1872. Albumen silver print. The Society of California Pioneers.

Naef believes that Muybridge, an entrepreneurial venture capitalist, acquired the rights to photographs from professionals such as Carleton Watkins, about whom Naef is a leading expert.

The revelation coincides with the most comprehensive exhibition ever assembled of work associated with Muybridge, “Helios: Easweard Muybridge in a Time of Change,”  at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to  July 18.

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  1. The photograph reproduced above is among the group of 51 mammoth plate Yosemite photographs that can be securely identified as the work of Muybridge. The doubtful works are dated in the exhibition to between 1867 and 1871, and are in smaller formats–stereographs or half-plate images.

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Jason Edward Kaufman is an art historian and critic with expertise in museums and the international art world.

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