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Muybridge or Watkins? Green finds out … (via Modern Art Notes)

Curator Phillip Brookman mounted the first-ever retrospective of the work of photographer Eadweard Muybridge (of Animal Locomotion fame), which is currently on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. But Tyler Green did some digging and found out some interesting information about this quirky photographer who helped invent modern photography and cinema. Green explains the interesting circumstances of the Muybridge show:

Typically when a museum holds an exhibition of a major artist, say Goya, it’s a sure thing that the works on view were indeed made by Goya. After all, the overwhelming majority of artists receiving the retrospective treatment are known quantities whose oeuvres have been studied by scholars for generations. Consensus has emerged.

Not so with Eadweard Muybridge …

In a weeklong series, Green is exploring the attribution of some of these images and the possibility that they were in fact by another photographers, such as Muybridge’s friend and rival Carleton Watkins. He interviews the foremost Watkins expert Weston J. Naef, who is the retired founding curator of photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum and former curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and the photography historian drops a bombshell: “I think that it’s in part the stereographs that would seem to be most open to reattribution.” Naef also calls for “substantial investigation” into Muybridge’s pre-1872 oeuvre, including his pictures of Yosemite, Alaska, and San Francisco.

The most shocking charge against Muybridge:

Naef explains why he thinks that stereographs attributed to Muybridge were in fact taken by Watkins, who sold the negatives to Muybridge. Muybridge then printed and sold them under his own name.

It’s a fascinating read for all the art history geeks and those interested in the detective work that goes into scholarly art exhibitions.

Tyler’s posts begin with this introduction and continue with:

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.