NEWS - Clarence Bicknell - his art - press coverage

museo bicknell 10nov2017The talk I and Dr Giovanni Russo gave in Bordighera's Museo Bicknell on Saturday 11 October went down well. Sophie Forestier of Nice Matin, a great Clarence fan who lives in Tende where he was buried, wrote a cracking article with all the facts and a good feel too. You can look at the article in French at download.

Photo, left to right, Marcus Bicknell; D.ssa Daniela Gandolif, Director of the Museo Bicknell; Gisella Merello, chair of the jury of the Parmarelu d'Oru


NEWS - Riviera Woman writes on Clarence

The artistic language of mountains and flowers: Clarence Bicknell

By Julia Moore               31st October 2017

If humans were vegetables, then Clarence Bicknell would be a beguiling, mysterious onion. A man of many layers, a  courageous maverick of his contemporary, Victorian straight jacket era, he threw off convention and followed his passions.

Next year, 2018 will be the centenary of his death. Our contemporary world, with its dumbed-down global travel and accessible trekking common-place, Bicknell reminds us of the pioneering mind-set incorporating rudimentary modes of transport and the sheer devotion of time and discomfort of discovery. He provided the turn-of the-Century world with early botanic and rock-carving discoveries, meticulous archiving, and water-colours to rival the peer-group establish visual artists, frequent visitors to the London parental home.

His life journey took him from South London to the Merveilles valley, Alpes-Maritimes. Specifically, he threw off the career/life-plan which accompanied a comfortable, Victorian existence, especially the claustrophobia of clerical life. Never losing his personal faith, he eschewed the life of a parish vicar, in the easy existence of the South of France, instead profiting from its  climactic provision of flora and fauna.

Bicknell’s solitary, reflective life did not preclude a broad-view, humanitarian engagement with the wider world. Almost as a balance to his intense, focussed mountain life, his shrewd investments benefitted charitable projects - a poorhouse in Shropshire and a hospital in Bordighera. His exercise and promotion of Esperanto and generosity in sharing his findings with a growing academic community is evidence that this is no reclusive hermit, turning his back on the world.

Casa Fontanalba Visitors' Book

It’s a cliché to speculate that his background -  closeted life at Cambridge, associations with a closed-set Brotherhood combined to cause the ‘escape and run’ decision. An alternative view is that such formative experiences led Bicknell to adopt the approach he did - a mathematician by training, in addition to  contemplative and reflective periods also required by ecclesiastical training became his defining skill-set for the path he, himself chose, they were complimentary to his final works, not adversaries to it.

The exhibition of watercolours, design art, personal effects and 18-minute bio-film is at the Museo Biblioteca Clarence Bicknell, Bordighera, until 30th November 2017.

(Mondays 8.30-13/13.30-17.00hr, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-13hr). Curated by Susie Bicknell. Marcus Bicknell has recently been awarded with the Parmurelu D’Oru by the Descu Runde, for services to the region’s culture and the significance of Clarence’s life and work here.


Reproduced from today. MB

In Clarence's Time - what did his father think of him?

samuel enderby“By the Grace of God, John, just look at the Samuel Enderby will you? What a ship. Glorious. And full to the gunwhales with sperm oil, I’ll be bound. We’ll find out tomorrow our share”.

Elhanan Bicknell and John Langton, his partner, were in their office in Newington Butts on the south bank of the Thames, looking out of the window across as street thronged with porters, traders, shipmen, an occasional hansome cab and all the hub-bub of Victorian industrial revolution London. The two middle-aged business-men were dressed in long coats with fur collars against the cold, despite being inside. It was the last days of 1845.

elhanan bicknell pose c“Elhanan, dear friend, do you feel the chill of an industry coming to an end? How many times will we watch with pride a sailing ship returning from the south Pacific ocean with such a rich cargo? Will London’s street lights and the lighthouses of the world burn bright with our whale oil? Will we long see sailing boats plying their trade on the high sea; why, only this August I read that Brunel’s iron steamship SS Great Britain crossed from Liverpool to New York with a engine driven by steam and a metal screw rotating faster than the eye can see. The Queen, god bless her, travelled on his Great Western Railway… and survived.”

“You are but 8 years older than me John, yet you’re sounding like an old man. No, what worries me, is the impact of those scoundrels in Westminster on our livelihood. Peel resigns over the Irish famine, Russell is unable to form a government, so Peel has to continue. The Mines Act is but one new law preventing children under 10 working on the ships. You and I are forced to pay tax on our income to this government. When will it end?”

“You must be happy to have invested in art, not in the whale oil industry. ‘Elhanan Bicknell, patron of the arts’ I see it written in the papers.”whalers turner dp169567 c

“Indeed, I have been fortunate in my decisions, although I feel God’s hand guide me. I alone saw value in the new artists here, my friends Landseer, Roberts, Landseer, Stanfield, Etty and that scoundrel Turner. That reminds me, pray, did I recount to you John, the hilarity of our Christmas party last week? Turner deigned to turn up without having answered the invitation, but then he enjoys the opportunity to see my dear wife Lucinda. You know how he hates his own image to be recorded, but Edwin Landseer fair exploded that bunkum; Turner was chatting with our guests over a cup of tea in the drawing-room, and D’Orsay placed himself as a screen beside him to hide,turner by dorsay mb property c when necessary, Landseer, sketching him at full length in pencil on the back of an envelope. It’s an amusing little drawing and I have encouraged the pair of them to have Hogarth print it for the amusement of the public! Amusement… even my children, peeping into the room, understood the joke, even Clarence who, although he is only 3, spends all his time with Lucinda learning how to draw.”

“So which of your children will take on the business.”

“Sidney? Herman? Percy? I doubt any of the teenagers have a business head. Certainly not that Clarence, my 13th child, that’s for certain. He’s away with the fairies. He’ll be a vicar or will live in a distant land following the scripture of Darwin… or will just paint flowers all his life.”


A sketch by Marcus Bicknell. Images; The Samuel Enderby, portrait of Elhanan Bicknell, Turner's Whalers and Turner by d'Orsay

Event - The Bristol Botanists - 22 November 2017

Clarence Bicknell and The Bristol Botanistsflowering plants of the riviera thompson pic

Graham Avery, University of Oxford                       Wednesday 22 November, 7.30 pm

At the meeting of the Bristol Naturalists Society at the Westbury on Trym Methodist Church, Westbury Hill, near Bristol BS9 3AA. A mile from Junction 17 of the M5.

Graham Avery, Vice-President of the Clarence Bicknell Association ( ), will explain the links between this remarkable man and the Bristol botanists, and show the short film The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell. Among the botanists whom Clarence Bicknell welcomed at his summer home in the Maritime Alps in Italy were three members of Bristol Naturalists’ Society: Harold Stuart Thompson in 1907, and James Walter White & Cedric Bucknall in 1911. Clarence Bicknell was not only a botanist but a pioneer in the exploration of the prehistoric rock engravings of the Alps. He was also an artist, Esperantist, philanthropist, and founder of the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera.

Admission free. Marcus Bicknell hopes to be there

You can read Graham's paper about the Bristol Botanists and Clarence Bicknell at

A plate from H.S.Thompson's Flowering Plants of the Riviera is shown right

In Clarence's Time - what's to eat in the mountains?

boursouzes 672x372Helen Blanc-Francard writes...An extremely well researched, exhaustive and interesting paper entitled 'Les Plantes Alimentaires de la Vallee de La Roya’ (click here to download it) by Danielle Mousset was published in 1983. It gives us a real insight into exactly what Clarence, his household staff and any visiting guests would have eaten on a daily basis at Casa Fontanalba. Traditional recipes, perhaps some of the dishes prepared by the Pollinis, are listed and identified too are all the cultivated plants, herbs and fruits, the wild plants, berries and mushrooms that were growing in the countryside around the house. Many ingredients were gathered to be eaten fresh or to be dried, preserved or pickled and added to soups, salads or stews at different seasons of the year. There are chapters about the cultivation methods and seasons for the vegetables and fruit trees specific to the locality, the gardening tools and even the cooking utensils that were used. An excellent bibliography offers a rich source for further research.

On the subject of food cultivation and preparation and to wind the clock back to the 12 year period Clarence was living in Casa Fontanalba (1906 - 1918) there are two collections in Tende of the locally made artefacts and objects dating from the beginning the century originating from the village houses, farms and rural properties around Val Casterino. They include the household and domestic utensils as well as the craft, agricultural and horticultural tools, implements and accoutrements of every sort that Clarence would have seen around him on a daily basis. Known as Les Musées d’Art Populaire the Collection Gabelli is a large collection that has been amassed by a collector over a period of 40 years. The address: 32 Rue Cotta, 06430 Tende. For opening times call (33) 0 4 93 04 69 05. The Collection Vada is a smaller collection of objects from rural life. The address: Place Lieutenant Kalck, 06430 Tende. For opening times call ( +33) 0 4 93 04 76 22 If visitors to Val Casterino actually want to sample some of the traditional alpine dishes that Clarence might have enjoyed there are several inns and restaurants close to Casa Fontanalba. These include: Le Chamois d’or,   Les Mélèzes , Auberge Val Castérino , Auberge Marie-Madeleine . Details can be found on .

The Auberge Val Casterino claims that Clarence stayed there whilst waiting for his house to be built. It has been run by the same family for three generations and they are still using locally sourced ingredients and recipes that have been handed down through the family. To give you ’the taste’ of a couple of topics in this paper here are some pages about the customary gathering of mushrooms and wild plants for culinary use.