Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) was a man of letters, an artist, author, traveller, botanist, archaeologist, pastor, humanist and Esperantist. Born in Herne Hill near  London, Clarence was the 13th child of Elhanan Bicknell, whale oil magnate and art patron. After studying at Cambridge University he was an Anglican priest for 15 years, then from 1879 lived in Bordighera on the Italian coast between Menton and Genoa; he died at his summer home nearby in Casterino in the high mountains of the Franco-Italian border on 17th July 1918.
Welcome to, the web site launched in July 2013 as a commemoration of Clarence’s life and work, and as home to the Clarence Bicknell Association. Outside Bordighera, Clarence seems to be the forgotten genius of 19th century science, arts and crafts. Our activities aim to put that right, i.e. make him known to a wider public across France, Italy, the UK and worldwide.
Give now. The Clarence Bicknell Fund, in cooperation with the International Institute of Ligurian Studies who run the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera, is still open for donations. If you would like to give now then click on the donate button below or go to the page on this site which has more details. Please also inform any friends who you think might like to donate.  

MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell, Botanist, Archaeologist, Artist. By Valerie Lester.

A treasure trove of research discoveries enlightens Valerie Lester’s biography of the captivating scientist and artist, Clarence Bicknell. Over 5 years, Lester has pored over hundreds of newly-discovered letters, botanical watercolours and arts-and-crafts designs in archives including the Natural History Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Conservatoire Botanique in Geneva and Genoa University. Every letter and diary entry provides Lester with Clarence’s voice; and each of his vellum-bound albums reveals drawings, watercolours and whimsical creations. The biography’s text, supported by more than 200 images, gives remarkable insights into how and why this man strove for perfection in each subject he tackled.

Clarence was a product of the late-Victorian Enlightenment, of the desire to understand our world and the quest to express it all creatively. Having lived for forty years in Bordighera on the Italian coast and spent summers at Casterino by the Vallée des Merveilles, now in France, he is a respected historical figure on both the French and Italian sides of the Riviera and the Maritime Alps. The irrepressible former clergyman dedicated himself first to botany, then archaeology in the high mountains, Esperanto and, towards the end of his life, to botanical art tinged with the whimsy of humour, narrative, affection for his friends and arts-and-crafts originality.

Valerie Lester was an independent scholar, writer, and translator living near Boston (read her biography). She wrote Fasten Your Seat Belts! History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin (1995), Phiz, The Man Who Drew Dickens (2004), Giambattista Bodoni: His Life and His World (2015) and has translated Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes with the title The Magnificent Meaulnes (2009). MARVELS was published by Matador Books on  28 June 2018 with 212 images, full colour throughout. ISBN 9781789014945.  Order your copy from us now. Click here for our shop and scroll down to MARVELS.         Interviews with Marcus Bicknell and Clarence’s biographer Valerie Lester on Riviera TV, March 2017; click on the following link: or directly to the video at

The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell  – the film. The 18 minute documentary biopic of Clarence Bicknell, in the evocative visual style of French director Rémy Masséglia, was released at selective screenings in September/October 2016 (see the list on this site at >Association > Events or here). Watch the film in HD 1080 here now by clicking on the film box, left or the Vimeo link below. Use a big computer screen or smart TV and make sure the audio is turned up…

The French, Italian and the Esperanto versions are similarly available on You can find out more about the film on the FAQ sheet, in English hereversion en français, in our newsletter, in the text of the screenplay of the film and in the story of the making of the film.

This website provides

  1. information for researchers and a place to share the results of research, see our Documents page,
  2. more on Clarence and his talents for those discovering him,
  3. details of the Clarence Bicknell Association and how to join (click on >Association, >Membership at the top); the minutes of General Meetings, the names of the elected officers and their bios are all available as downloads on the Who We Are and Documents pages,
  4. info about past and future events like the publication of MARVELS (see above), 30 exhibitions, lectures and other events in Italy, France, the UK, USA and elsewhere,
  5. our shop launched in 2024 where you can purchased framed or unframed prints of Clarence’s arts-and-crafts-style wild flower watercolours from his Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book and books –

This website was conceived in spring 2013 by Marcus Bicknell, Clarence’s great-great-nephew and finished with the help of family and friends plus web authors Rémy and Zelda of Lez’Art Creation in Breil, just a few miles from the Vallée des Merveilles. Rémy also made the 2017 film about Clarence (read on this page, above). We endeavour to give some insight into Clarence the man, his life and works; you’ll find some images from the family collection that have not been published anywhere before.  We would be delighted to get your feedback via email And… see us on Facebook, Instagram and X.

updated 22 May 2024 MB