Duchamp in Herne Bay

Duchamp came to Herne Bay as chaperone to his younger sister, Yvonne, who was 17 and here to study English. She attended classes at Lynton College, Downs Park, a private college for international students and the children of British ex-patriots. We know that Duchamp also stayed at Lynton College as he gave this as his address for the summer. During our festival we are unveiling a blue plaque on the building. Whilst Yvonne was studying, Duchamp explored everything Herne Bay had to offer visitors. He also wrote postcards to his friends and played a lot of tennis. More importantly, he had time to stop and reflect. It may be too much to claim that this was the turning point, but it is certain that 1913 was a pivotal moment in Duchamp’s life as an artist. When he returned to Paris, after his summer by the sea, he produced work of an entirely new kind. He published his ideas on objets trouvés or ‘readymades’ and produced 3 Standard Stoppages and Bicycle Wheel. In Herne Bay, Duchamp was already making notes towards what would become his most important work, The Large Glass, also known as The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even.

LyntonCollege

Pier photo for PR copy

Illuminated Pier Pavillion by Fred C Palmer

One of these refers directly to Herne Bay’s illuminated Pier Pavilion, photographed on its opening night in 1910 by Fred C. Palmer. The postcard was widely available in Herne Bay and Duchamp attached it to one of his most important notes, describing a possible background for the work with the following comment: ‘An electric fête recalling the decorative lighting of Magic city or Luna Park, or the Pier Pavilion at Herne Bay….. The picture will be executed on two large sheets of glass about 1m 30 x 1,40 / one above the other.’ A directory and guide to Herne Bay from this year makes it clear that the spectacle of the Pier Pavilion illuminated by both gas lighting and newly installed electric light was visible from the top of the downs, close to where Marcel and Yvonne were staying. Its reflection in the still water or at low tide, would have been an incredible and inspiring sight.