Etienne-Jules Marey

Étienne-Jules Marey’s work was significant in the development of cardiology, physical instrumentation, aviation, cinematography and the science of laboratory photography. He is widely considered to be a pioneer of photography and an instrumental figure in the history of cinema. He pre-dates Muybridge and the complexity and the sheer scientific ambition of his work was without equal. Here we see seventeen extremely rare examples of his work. Joined together as we have here, one sees the very early beginnings of cinema and a fluidity of movement begins to emerge. The complete motion study was of huge significance, as Degas was to testify in his early recognition of the importance photography and film would have on art.


"For me, this series has all the characteristics of Marey’s drawings from the 1890s: the kind of paper, the format, the colour. Each drawing is an enlargement of a photogram of one of Marey’s chronophotographic films, or in his own words “chronophotography on mobile film” or “on a mobile strip” that he clarifies in 1890 (as opposed to a static plate/veneer). A film of 90mm wide and around 1m or so long. The clock with a needle, in principle doing a complete turn each second, is that of the Institute Marey, found in many films and chronophotographs as a reference of time for each position. These films were made to analyse the movements of humans or animals in motion. The enlarged images that you have shown me were not systematically made for all the films, but only for those that allowed a finer analysis of movement. I remember seeing one of a cat or a rabbit. Drawings such as these could have been used for artistic purposes, but rather they were destined for the purpose of the scientific analysis of locomotion.  A report would be made of each photogram on tracing paper, drawing only for example the lines of the limbs (you have some lines of this type on the drawings, along the leg), and then superimposing the pieces of tracing paper in order to reconstruct a kind of chronophotography on a fixed plate with lines instead of limbs (“graphic reduction”)."


- Laurent Monnoni, Scientific Director of Heritage and Director of the Conservatory of technical, French Cinémathèque