Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Muybridge and the Comic Strip

While cartoonists A. B. Frost and Henry Stull left undeniable proof of their indebtedness to the work of Eadweard Muybridge others were less obvious about his influence on their comic strip work. One way of identifying Muybridge influence is by imagining that an animator’s in-betweener could fill in the spaces between actions to create a free-flowing cinematic animation. Charles Green Bush’s “At the Photographer’s,” HERE, is a case in point. The cartoon above by Frederick Burr Opper, “Some Studies of a Character Artist at Work,” was published in Puck 30 November, 1887.

Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of humans and animals in motion made a world-wide stir in scientific and artistic circles and he went on the lecture circuit to explain his earth-shaking discoveries with the aid of a zoopraxiscope, which an English writer described as “a magic lantern run mad.” On 18 November 1882 Muybridge lectured on “The Romance and Reality of Animal Motion” for a packed house in a show sponsored by the New York Turf Club.

He illustrated his lecture by projecting his stationary photographs on a canvas screen and afterward, as a New York Times columnist wrote, “displayed the figure of the animal, first at a walk across the canvas, then pacing, cantering, galloping, and even jumping the hurdle. The effect was true to life, and the spectator could almost believe that he saw miniature horses with their riders racing across the screen.” He followed up with animations of a running bull, a goat, a deer, and a man, all walking, running, jumping, and in the case of the man, turning somersaults.

The first silent movie, “The Great Train Robbery,” was not produced until 1903, and the first animated cartoon was J. Stuart Blackton’s “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces,” in 1906, but comic strip artists were already anticipating animation in work done in the 1880’s and 1890's.

Below is another Frederick Burr Opper cartoon on caricature from Scribner’s circa 1883.

See also part II HERE

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