Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Muybridge & Watkins: In which I play detective

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In the second part of our Q&A, curator and scholar Weston Naef describes how he discovered an image attributed to Eadweard Muybridge that he says is known to have been taken by Carleton Watkins. (The two pictures are also the first two images in this morning’s post.)

This is not an isolated example. After talking with Naef about Muybridge and Watkins, I surfed my way through both CarletonWatkins.org — a remarkable resource that digitally chronicles known Watkins stereographs — and Calisphere, the University of California’s (free) digital gateway to primary source material. There are about 2,000 Muybridge images on Calisphere, mostly from the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley but also from related repositories.

Using my conversation with Naef as a kind of old-school finding aid, I looked for sequences of Watkins stereographs that had gaps, and that might have related images. This led me to Watkins’ stereographs of Woodward’s Gardens, which Naef later described to me as a San Francisco “zoo and natural history museum along with a botanical garden and eating establishment… a precursor of the public amusement park as we know it today.”

I noticed two things. First, there’s a gap in Watkins’ Woodward’s Gardens stereographic catalogue record. (See screen-capture above.) It’s a pretty specific gap: You can see it better by clicking here and doing a bit of scrolling, down to where the entry says “Museum, Woodward Gardens.” There are numerous images of that ‘museum’ in Muybridge’s Calisphere-accessible archive, including here and here. Interesting.

Next, I found a ‘double’: See the CarletonWatkins.org-documented Woodward’s Gardens Watkins stereograph at left. It’s No. 1628 in Watkins’ Pacific Coast series. (I found it via CarletonWatkins.org, but the link above is to a collection record at The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.) Compare this stereograph to the image at the top of this post, from the Lone Mountain College Collection of Stereographs by Eadweard Muybridge, Series 1, Volume 6.  (The volume is also in the collection of The Bancroft Library.) They’re identical — right down to the pose of the man on the steps.

Related: Introducing MAN’s June Newsmaker Q&A with Naef. Part one. Part two. Part three.

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  1. [...] Also: I play detective and find a Muybridge-Watkins conflict. [...]

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