Muybridge’s Rowing Man

‘Rowing Man, Plate 327’ by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887 (click to enlarge).

28 August 2017

Tim Koch writes:

Most of us are aware of the photographic work of Edweard Muybridge (born Edward James Muggeridge, 1830-1904), even if we do not all know his name. His Wikipedia page holds that:

Today, Muybridge is known for his pioneering work on animal locomotion in 1877 and 1878, which used multiple cameras to capture motion in stop-motion photographs… In the 1880s, he entered a very productive period at the University of Pennsylvania… producing over 100,000 images of animals and humans in motion, capturing what the human eye could not distinguish as separate movements.

Muybridge posing with strongman, Bill Brandt (1879).

The Animal Locomotion Study contained nearly 800 photographs of men, women and children performing common actions, often pictured naked or semi-naked. It included physically deformed people from the Philadelphia Hospital, performers from the circus and animals from the zoo. This study was of great use to artists, anatomists, physiologists, athletes, and, presumably, those with a puerile interest in the naked form. Muybridge’s motion studies entered into scientific and anthropological debates about the nature of the human body and the extent to which physiology determined the human condition.

This is an animation of the first twelve pictures in the Rowing Man plate. I suspect that the oarsman was not a ‘real’ rower (perhaps he was a circus performer) and the plate may not be an illustration of an accepted rowing technique of the time.


  1. There are actually two “rowing man” plates in the Animal Locomotion series, Plates 327 and 328. The HTBS devotee who is most likely located in the closest proximity to original copies of those plates is our fearless leader, Göran Buckhorn, because I donated the pair to Mystic Seaport Museum in 2005, when we had high hopes that MSM would be the center for rowing studies and collections …

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