Elena Grafova, PhD researcher at the Likhatchov Russian Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage in Moscow, has recently completed her thesis called Gardens of the Hanbury family and their influence on the culture of Italy at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries.
We are pleased to have her authorisation to publish a short version here...
The trigger for this version of Elena Grafova's paper was the conference of 26th January 2019 at the Hanbury Garden in La Mortola entitled "Clarence Bicknell and Thomas Hanbury: Two Great Victorians on the Riviera". At the initiative of Alessandro Bartoli, dynamic secretary of the Friends of the Hanbury Gardens, paper were preseneted by experts in the field. Professor Mauro Mariotti, head of the University of Genova Distav (therefore the de facto curator of a collection of some thirteen thousand Clarence Bicknell watercolours, rock engraving copies, field diaries and plant samples) argued in favour of the term "Field Scientist" to describe Clarence Bicknell's contributions. Marcus Bicknell presented a paper on Clarence Bickne'll's art, drawing attention to the "art nouveau" floral designs of his later life which form a key part of Ms. Grafova's study. Dssa. Daniela Gandolfi, head of the International Institute of Ligurian Studies and of the Museo Bicknell which it owns, was fully justified in blowing the trumpet about their contribution to the 2018 Clarence Bicknell Centenary which includes classic material from the Museo, loan items from collections like the Bicknell Collection which I curate and new items (the Lotto 2017) purchased by the IISL. Claudio Littardi, of the Centro Studi per le Palme and the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri-Museo Bicknell, preseneted a paper on the garden of the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera.
26th January 2019 at the Hanbury Garden, left to right: Elena Lesnykh, Daniela Gandolfi, Elisabetta Massardo, Monica Muscaglia, Marcus Bicknell, Gisella Merello, Elena Grafova and Michael Grafov.
Elena Grafova argues that Clarence Bicknell's focus on flowers in his art brings him squarely into the Art Nouveau movement, and we show below some key exceprts from the paper.
"It was the study of the archives of people who lived in the era of the creation and development of the Hanbury gardens and took an active part in the formation of the Italian cultural heritage fund, while remaining carriers of the English traditions in the field of natural science and art, allows us to answer questions about the significance and interdependence of science, art and culture .
"Clarence Bicknell focuses on studying the flora of the Riviera of Flowers, he pays great attention to the world of flowers, he is engaged in their categorization, description, and further. Stylized from in floral ornaments in the style of catalogues of decorative art of Art Nouveau. He is familiar with the botanist of the garden of Thomas Hanbury in La Mortola, Alwin Berger and the owner of the garden of Thomas Hanbury. They are united by passion and love for the world of plants. Clarence Bicknell, closer to the iconography and philosophy of modern style. Like Emil Galle and the ideologists of the School of Nancy in Lorraine, he studies the national character of the flora of Liguria, in his research laid the uniqueness and preservation of the natural heritage of the Riviera of Flowers.
"The peculiarity of the garden of Thomas Hanbury is in the acclimatization and adaptation of rare exotic plants; Bicknell's attention is focused on the unique plants of the Ligurian coast. But, as in the School of Nancy, in Lorraine, where unique artworks in decorative and artistic art were created in the Art Nouveau style, the subject of which is the roses that are loved at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, attention to this type of flowers is also included in scientific interests. Clarence Bicknell showed his botanical studies and watercolours to his friend the Swiss botanist Emile Burnat, whose work, written in collaboration with August Gremli, Roses of Italy (1886), was very popular among villa owners, gardens and artists of the Ligurian coast.
"Bicknell’s interest in the world of plants echoes the ideas of the book The Mind of Flowers by Maurice Maeterlinck, whose work influenced the people of French art, who created their works in modern style. The ideas of Clarence Bicknell are consonant with the discoveries expressed in the botanical illustration of Allois Lunzer, Thomas Mehan and Otto Wilhelme Tome. Clarence Bicknell develops the study of flowers and their classification to their reproduction in his ornaments and watercolours. Bicknell cannot be called a classic artist of the modern era (art-nouveau), but his collection of watercolours of botanical illustration of flowers, their classification in books written and published by him, as well as a huge collection of butterflies, speaks of the very interest in plant and insect life that formed the modern style in Italy and France. The influence of the ideas of Maurice Maeterlinck, who formed the philosophy of modernity and were voiced by him in the book The Mind of Flowers, speaks about similar thoughts that developed among scientists and artists of this time, influenced the style and aesthetics of the modernist style in Italy."