Some reflections on 2017's campaign by Marcus Bicknell...
I should update all Clarence Bicknell lovers of the important strides taken by us in Bordighera and Cambridge in 2017. Bordighera, his home for 40 years and the site of the Museo Bicknell he built, has the core of his following. From here we are spreading the interest in Clarence round Europe and the USA.
We made a breakthrough in May when the Descu Rondu, an independent Bordighera- based cultural association, selected me as the winner of their annual award the Parmurelu d’Oru - that’s a “mini palm leaf”. The honour
is one thing, media attention for Clarence is another, and the opportunity to stage an independent exhibition was a third. Each previous winner, artist, writer, scientist, has put something on to dazzle their public at the time of the award ceremony, October. In our case, Gisella Merello, President of the Jury of the Parmurelu d’Oru, author on art and architecture and once a researcher in the Museo Bicknell, encouraged us in our idea to present one of Clarence’s lesser-known talents. And I say “us” because my wife and partner in our Clarence campaign (which has been running since 2013), took on the role of curator of the exhibition. More in a moment.
At about the same time, spring 2017, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University, “discovered” Clarence. That is to say they realised the importance in their own archive of the 405 watercolours in 7 vellum-bound albums. My uncle Peter, guardian of the Clarence collection at the time, had given these albums to the Fitzwilliam in 1980 where they had languished in storage. While researching Clarence, we went up to Cambridge and were so struck by the images that we had some of them photographed at our expense. The Fitzwilliam liked many of them so much that they took many more photos and took the decision to feature Clarence’s work in their 2018 exhibition of Botanical Art. The Fitzwilliam has also produced a choice of two Christmas cards to stock the museum shop, with another 12 coming in 2018, and have also designed the 2019 Fitzwilliam calendar with Clarence’s images. Recognition indeed!
We were able to acquire from the Fitzwilliam the rights to show reproductions of the designs in public and to publish them on our web site and in Valerie Lester’s upcoming biography of Clarence. Our own family collection has 3 of Clarence’s vellum- bound albums, notebooks brimming with sketches and watercolour landscapes.
Armed with this exciting and unseen artwork, Susie set about developing her essay on Clarence’s art www.clarence Bicknell.com into an exhibition. The theme is that Clarence found creative fulfilment through his creation of these illustrated vellum albums which allowed him to develop his design and artistic talents above and beyond the rigorous depiction of standard botanical work and recording of the prehistoric rock engravings. The major influence on his style was the Arts and Crafts movement which he combined with Victorian whimsy. 14 printed panels A1 size (594 x 841 mm) guide the visitor through Clarence s art in a coherent way, the text being in English (by Susie), French (translations by Colette Thomas) and Italian ( by Edoardo Folli, Gisella’s son). Extra prints of the Fitzwilliam designs, art from the family collection, Genoa University and the Museo Bicknell, and personal items of Clarence’s make up a display of about 60 items.
It was also decided that Clarence’s albums should be available to a bigger audience, and now one of the three albums of art in the family collection, the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book (which you can see in the left of the glass case in the photo from the Octber 2017 Bordighera exhibition, below right), has been the first to be reproduced in print. It has 104 pages of which 60 are full colour plates of mountain flowers in a matching border on the right side and signatures of the visitors to the house on the left side. There are more details on the following page. The book is for sale at selected bookshops and on www.clarencebicknell.com/shop and was launched on the first day of the exhibition in Bordighera.
On 8th October 2017 in Bordighera, the ceremony for the official award of the Parmurelu d’Oru to Marcus Bicknell was in the same hall and on the same day as the opening of the exhibition. The great and the good of Bordighera turned out to enjoy Clarence’s art and the accolades offered in the various speeches. Two weeks later the exhibition transferred in its entirety to the Museo Bicknell, also in Bordighera, where it will run till 30 November 2017. Further exhibitions to celebrate the centenary of Clarence’s death will follow during 2018, the present list being…
• Genoa, Palazzo Reale (spring 2018, to be confirmed)
• Nice, Société Centrale d'Agriculture, d'Horticulture et d'Acclimatation de Nice et des Alpes-Maritimes (spring, to be confirmed)
• Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum, botanical art exhibition (5 June- 9 September 2018)
• Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum, lunchtime seminar and film projection (Wednesday 20th June 2018)
• Cambridge University, Jesus College Intellectual Forum seminar and film projection in the Frankopan Hall (date to be advised)
• Cambridge University, Jesus College Intellectual Forum exhibition in the Frankopan Hall (date to be advised)
• Oxford University, film and a seminar at Oxford University, St Margaret's Institute http://www.smi-oxford.org.uk on Tuesday 3rd July 2018
• Bordighera, Museo Bicknell (early July to November 2018)
• Bordighera, Museo Bicknell, Settimana Bicknelliana 14-22 July 2018
• Tende, Musée des Merveilles (July-September 2018)
• London, Artworkers’ Guild (to be confirmed)
• Monaco, Jardin Exotique (September-November 2018)
• Monaco, Musée d’Anthropologie (September-November 2018)
• Ventimiglia, Museo Rossi (summer 2018, dates to be advised)
• Nice, Exposition sur la thématique "Botanistes et Alpinistes dans les Alpes-Maritimes entre les deux siècles" organisé par la Ville de Nice avec la participation des Amis du Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de Nice, Le Muséum d'Histoire naturelle de Nice, La Grande Bibliothèque "Louis Nucera" (BMVR), La Bibliothèque de Cessole, Le Club Alpin Français et l’Association Clarence Bicknell (octobre 2018)
With such a positive 2017 behind us , we are all looking forward to the centenary year in 2018 when Clarence will get the recognition he deserves.