Friday, July 27, 2012

Jet of Water

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) invented an arrangement using several cameras to capture motion as a series of stop-action photos. In the late 1880s he published collections of the resulting images in a series of volumes called Animal Locomotion (men clothed and unclothed, women clothed and unclothed, horses, ostriches, dogs, etc.). Many of the Animal Locomotion plates are now viewable as high-quality scans here. Among those, I came across the two above, ones I had never seen before. These show naked men throwing buckets of water in great plumes across the picture-space.

Those particular plates reminded me of something, but I couldn't think what – until later, when the answer suddenly flashed into my brain. Francis Bacon! I remembered that toward the end of his life Bacon made several odd paintings depicting waterspouts or waves, more or less confining them within the real/imaginary space of his cramped London studio. The examples I managed to locate (above) were both titled Jet of Water and he painted them both in 1988.

The artist's lifelong use of Muybridge reproductions torn out of books was well known and openly acknowledged. Photographs of one sort or another suggested elements for almost all his painted figures. Many stained and crumpled Muybridge fragments were found among the knee-deep trash on the studio floor when every surviving scrap was cataloged (as described here) some years after the painter's death in 1992. In recent books devoted to Bacon these studio scraps are frequently reproduced alongside the work they inspired. But I don't remember ever seeing the Muybridge water-throwers linked up to Jets of Water.