Next students will look at photographs by Eadward Muybridge. Muybridge's photos show a series of frames of a shapely woman walking down stairs. We will need to have a discussion about appropriateness because many of his freeze frame images are of nude figures. To us the freeze frames are a common sight and many cameras have a "burst" setting, which will capture movement in the same way that this series of photographs is taken. However, when futurists began working this was brand--new technology. No one had ever seen motion stopped this way. I would like students to brainstorm what technological advances might have been around at the time that these photographs were produced. I am hoping that they see the direct connection to photography itself, and also to the idea of creating movies. I would like them to think about ways that the photographs might be helpful. Students will then try using the burst setting on the digital cameras to take photographs similar to Muybridge's. We will discuss why taking these photographs would have been much more difficult for him, and how easy digital cameras have made it. We will also use these photographs later when we begin working with gesture drawing.
Next students will discuss how an artist might show action in a painting. I will ask them to do an artwork of their own to show the motion of a woman walking downstairs. They will be allowed to select from a variety of media -- collage, drawing, charcoal. This will allow them to work in whatever media they feel most comfortable with, since some students may not yet be able to express their idea through drawing. After they have created their version of a woman walking down a staircase they will compare Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase with Eadward Muybridge's freeze frames of a woman walking down stairs -- both examples of artwork which capture a woman doing exactly that.
Marcel Duchamp was introduced to art as a young child by his grandfather. His talent was first recognized in his teenage years and he moved to Paris after graduating to study art. He created a painting of a coffee grinder as a present for his brother's kitchen that is known as one of the first paintings to "indicate movement in a static image." (Naumann 42) He began incorporating cubism into his artwork and was extremely influenced by the photographs of Muybridge. His Nude Descending a Staircase was described as a combination of futurism and cubism, though Duchamp had not even seen an example of futurism at the time. His painting was rejected from the Independents' Exhibition in 1912. The jurors were his friends and family, and therefore he stopped painting all together. He took a job as a librarian and continued drawing and later went on to push the definition of art with his ready--made sculptures and was a strong force in the Dada movement.
Marcel Duchamp's painting Nude Descending a Staircase is actually a series of three different paintings which can all be found at: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/51449.html?mulR=21139. All of the paintings are composed in very earthy tones, mostly browns in the background and skin tones for the figure mixed with yellow and green in some places. A series of flat shapes on the bottom right resemble a person. There is a rounded out rectangle as a torso shape and then another where hips would be. Next there are lines that seem to signify a bent arm, and an extended leg. It is obvious that parts of the figure are repeated up and to the left of this figure, which begin to imply motion. Some stairs can be made out at the bottom of the image, but otherwise the background is difficult to discern.
There are obvious similarities to Muybridge's photographs. One example of his photographs is available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A4192&page_number=15&template_id=1&sort_order=1, though a google search would show lots of different options of frozen motions from figures to horses running. In this example the figure is obvious; the repetition is there, though in separate frames. Duchamp's figure appears to be much more abstracted. He has broken her down into parts. There are some lines that are included just to imply motion and are not necessarily a part of the figure.
I would like students to think about the following questions:
--How is Duchamp's painting similar to the frames by Muybridge?
--How are they different?
--What do you think Duchamp was trying to capture?
--Why might Duchamp have chosen not to add all of the realistic details to his figure?
-- As the viewer hat different information do we get from each piece of artwork?
I would also like students to think about the most recent advance in this particular department, which is a freeze frame of a 360--degree view. It was made famous in the movie the Matrix. I would like students to compare how this is parallel to the technology that Muybridge was experimenting with at the time.