EVENT - Clarence Bicknell in Private, 20th July 2019, Bordighera

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

We are delighted to announce an event on Saturday 20th July 2019 in the Museo Bicknell, Bordighera, starting at 17h30. I have entitled it

Clarence Bicknell in Private.


  • Projection of the acclaimed 18-minute film The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell
    Musings from me, Marcus Bicknell, Clarence’s great grand nephew,
    With images from the family collection
    Question and answer session, drinks

The extraordinary events which celebrated the centenary of the death of Clarence Bicknell showed off his botany, his work on the rock engravings, his art and his role in Bordighera from 1878 till 1918. Maybe it is time now to delve into why he was such an interesting person… was Clarence a scientific giant or a man with a lisp who left his family and his church to be on the Riviera? … was he an English parson who spent the first 38 years of his life with men, or the grey-haired and wise gentleman who famously spent much of his time on the coast and in the mountains with women? Mrs Fanshawe Walker; landlady, his avowed “best friend”, companion or more? What was the Baroness von Taube for him? Who was Alice Campbell who allegedly was with him at his last moments at Casterino and was buried alongside him? Did Alice exist? If she did exist, why would Margaret Berry, Clarence’s niece and self-appointed moral guardian, have erased every mention of her from the records?

And there are other questions like what moved Clarence, what led him forward through life and what motivated him to create so many artworks and artefacts... 43,000 pieces in total in universities and museums across Europe? What was his private life like and how did he relax? Why did he invest so much energy and money into creating care homes, hospitals and museums? Where did the money come from and how did it last a lifetime? Did he find fulfilment in being a vegetarian, a pacifist and an Esperantist? Why did he come to Bordighera, and were the reasons similar to those which bring foreigners to settle in Bordighera even now?

Are you, tonight, walking in Clarence’s emotional footsteps?

Marcus Bicknell, Clarence’s great grand-nephew and one of the six researchers for the 2018 biography MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell by Valerie Lester who, like Marcus, shares Clarence’s genes, thinks the English speakers of Bordighera are ready for a more in-depth discussion of Clarence’s personality.

The event will start with a projection of the acclaimed 18-minute film The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell in the evocative visual style of French director Rémy Masséglia. The film is nominated at the St.Martin Vesubie Mountain Film Festival the day before this talk. Marcus will talk with some visual support to try to answer these questions and will then throw the floor open to your further questions, comments and (if you read the book in advance) disagreements… surely!


clarence bicknell in private july2019 flyer c

You can download this A4 flyer in pdf here

Place: Museo Bicknell, via Via Romana 39, Bordighera, IM-18012. +39 0184.263694

Date and time: 17h30 Saturday 20th July 2019

Entry is free of charge, but please say your coming using the "events" feature on our two Facebook pages www.facebook.com/clarencebicknell  and www.facebook.com/Friends-of-the-Riviera-363194587502450/

Refreshments: to be confirmed

Organised by: Friends of the Riviera and the Clarence Bicknell Association by kind permission and with the cooperation of the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri / Museo Bicknell.

Buy MARVELS the book from the Museo Bicknell or Amico Libro, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, 30, Bordighera or at www.clarencebicknell.com  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Marcus Bicknell, 14th June 2019

NEWS - Valerie Lester 1939-2019

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

valerie lester at boccanegraIt is with great sadness that we announce the death of Valerie Lester. Despite the quiet progression of metastasising melanoma since 2012 and the threat of imminent demise since 2017, Valerie continued to be largely symptom-free, and spent 2018 living life to the fullest - writing, travelling, laughing and loving. She succumbed peacefully in hospice care near her home in Hingham, Massachusetts, on Friday 7th June with her children Toby and Alison at her bedside.

By a master-stroke of planning and Valerie’s determination in completing such a daunting task, MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell, Botanist, Archaeologist, Artist was published in June of 2018, the centenary year. Events were held in Bordighera and Parma (Italy), Tende (France), Cambridge (England) and Hingham (USA) to launch the book and celebrate Clarence’s talent and output. In the last two years of this work, she and her closest family and friends knew she was under the threat of the cancer, but she delivered herself to her work and her life with extraordinary gusto, never once complaining or slacking.

We mourn the passing of a good friend, a bright intellect, a person full of life and a warm human being. She enriched the lives of everyone she touched and she leaves a rich legacy.

Please read Valerie's obituary which you can download in pdf here.

RESEARCH - Clarence Bicknell and Cypripedium calceolus

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

cypripedium calceolus 210b frauenschuh cIn anticipation of his lecture on Clarence Bicknell - A British Botanist in the Maritime Alps at the Annual Meeting of the European Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Group which takes place at Champex in Switzerland from 19 to 21 June 2019, Graham Avery has published a new paper today 5th June 2019 entitled Clarence Bicknell and Cypripedium calceolus. This paper can be downloaded in pdf form by clicking here.

Graham introduces the paper thus...

In his letter of 6 July 1899 to Emile Burnat, Clarence expresses vividly the complex emotions of a botanist on finding a rare plant for the first time. He describes his surprise, disbelief, instinctive bodily reaction, joy and pain: “I had a moment – several moments – of trembling, turning to right and left, not wanting to look, saying to myself perhaps it’s a dream”. He realises that the plant is Cypripedium calceolus, but he doesn’t want to say it to Burnat: “I mustn’t tell you today, for you know that great joy, like great pain, can hurt a lot, with too much emotion”. In this letter Clarence gives us a fascinating psychological insight into his passion for botany, and in his next letter to Burnat on 12 July 1899 he conveys his joy graphically by means of a splendid water-colour sketch of the plant.

Download the new paper here


Related papers by Graham Avery on the Clarence Bicknell web site include.

Burnat, Émile - "Cher Monsieur", Letters from Clarence (1886-1917) 2016 – Graham Avery
Burnat, Émile -The Film 2018 - Graham Avery
Burnat/Bicknell Nature Reserve in the Marguareis Natural Park 2017 - Graham Avery
Clarence Bicknell - Farrer, Reginald (1910)                                     2013 - Graham Avery
Fox, Aileen, at Fontanalba (1927-8)                                               2015 - Graham Avery
Hanbury Gardens and Clarence Bicknell 2016 - Graham Avery
Clarence Bicknell - Botanical Exchanges               2016 - Graham Avery
Clarence Bicknell - Botany and the Hanbury Gardens 2016 - Graham Avery
Clarence Bicknell - Bristol Botanists at the Casa Fontanalba           2017 - Graham Avery
Clarence Bicknell - Pimpinella bicknellii                                         2017 - Graham Avery
Clarence Bicknell - Iridomyrmex bicknelli (1898)                             2016 - Graham Avery

NEWS - 100 years of Clarence Bicknell in Alpidoc

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

a100 bicknell pdf image 285x150 cEnglish text below

Pubblichiamo, per gentile concessione dell’editore, un bell'articolo dedicato a Clarence Bicknell a firma del botanico Bruno Gallino, che ha voluto ricordarlo in occasione del centenario della morte.

Scarica l'articolo in pdf qui

L'articolo è stato pubblicato sul numero 100 della rivista Alpidoc, un quadrimestrale edito da Costarossa Edizioni per conto dell’associazione Le Alpi del Sole, che riunisce le quattordici sezioni del Club Alpino della provincia di Cuneo più quelle di Savona e Cavour.

Copia della rivista (96 pagine, 3,50 euro) può essere richiesta scrivendo una email a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Le spese di invio postale per l’Italia ammontano a 1,50 euro; 7,50 euro per i paesi europei.

La passione che anima chi da oltre venticinque anni realizza la rivista emerge dalle parole che Enrica Raviola, curatrice della pubblicazione, mi ha inviato qualche mese fa. «Colgo l'occasione per esprimere a voi personalmente la mia profonda ammirazione e stima per Clarence Bicknell, nonché l'amore più profondo per gli stessi luoghi che egli ha amato. Un amore condiviso al punto che la sequenza iniziale del film Marvels (Clarence e l'alba tra le montagne) mi ha commosso fino alle lacrime ... Un sentimento di immedesimazione che solo chi ha percorso con l’anima quegli stessi luoghi può provare.».

a100 cover fronte e1548321967453 640x1024

Puoi vedere il film in inglese su vimeo.com/clarencebicknell/marvels e in italiano su vimeo.com/clarencebicknell/meraviglie


We publish today this excellent article about the 100 years of Clarence Bicknell by Bruno Gallino. We are honoured to have the permission from Enrica Raviola, the editor of Alpidoc.

Download the article, which is in Italian, in pdf here

The article was published in the number 100 of the magazine Alpidoc (96 pages, 3.50 euros, postage costs for Italy amount to 1.50 euros; € 7.50 for European countries.). We hope that this article will intrigue you and that you will purchase the actual magazine and subscribe to it every month. Alpidoc is a magazine that essentially stands on the passion of those who make it, and, unfortunately, passion does not make money. So please visit the web site www.alpidoc.it or email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and take out a subscription.

The extent of their passion can be understood from the words Enrica sent to me in English a few months ago. "I take this opportunity to express to you personally my profound admiration and esteem for Clarence Bicknell, as well as the deepest love for the same places that he has loved. A love shared to the point that the initial sequence of the film Marvels (Clarence and dawn in the mountains) moved me to tears ... a feeling of empathy that comes to one whose soul has travelled to those same places to one who considers them home."   Thank you Enrica.

You can see the film in English at vimeo.com/clarencebicknell/marvels and in Italian at vimeo.com/clarencebicknell/meraviglie

EVENT - Festival Images et Montagnes, Saint Martin Vésubie 19 July 2019

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

clarence bicknell movie poster 2016 mediumThe brilliant 18-minute film about Clarence Bicknell has been selected for a prestigious film festival, 5e Festival Images et Montagnes, Saint Martin Vésubie (65km north of Nice in the mountains). We are so pleased for Rémy, the director, and for the super-amazed festival-goers who will see it for the first time. The screening will be at 15h on Friday 19 July.

5e Festival Images et Montagnes, Saint Martin Vésubie, du 19 au 21 Juillet 2019


remy marvelsLe Festival vient de confirmer la sélection du film "Les Merveilles de Clarence Bicknell" de Rémy Masséglia dans la programmation du Festival Images et Montagnes de l’association Hervé Gourdel qui aura lieu du Vendredi 19 au Dimanche 21 Juillet 2019. Le film sera projeté le vendredi 19 Juillet à 15h à la Médiathèque avec intervention de Rémy Masséglia, Marcus Bicknell et autres suite à la projection. Le Parc National du Mercantour qui fête ses 40 ans cette année sera partenaire du Festival.

NEWS - Importanti nuovi contributi al centenario Clarence Bicknell

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Importanti nuovi contributi al centenario Clarence Bicknell

di Elisabetta Massardo, Gisella Merello e Daniela Gandolfi
... in lingua italiana

In vista del grande evento che questa domenica 24/3/2019 alle 11.30 al Museo Bicknell, noi abbiamo pubblicato alcuni importanti nuovi contributi al centenario Clarence Bicknell di Elisabetta Massardo, Gisella Merello e Dabniela Gandolfi ... in lingua italiana...


Nuove traduzioni italiane di importanti articoli sul nostro sito web www.clarencebicknell.com. Il lavoro è stato svolto su base volontaria, per amore di Clarence, da Elisabetta Massardo di Genova, fotografa e devota della flora alpina. Ci ha anche supportato nella preparazione di MARVELS: La vita di Clarence Bicknell di Valerie Lester con una superba fotografia del fiore che Clarence chiamava The Ancient King, Saxifraga florulenta.

Ringraziamo calorosamente Elisabetta per il suo lavoro e contiamo di poter pubblicare altre sue fotografie di fiori alpini con testi di accompagnamento.

l'Uomo, biografia     www.clarencebicknell.com/it/the-man/biography     
l'Uomo,  gli scritti    www.clarencebicknell.com/it/l-uomo/gli-scritti         
l'Uomo, la chiesa    www.clarencebicknell.com/it/the-man/the-church    
Il Botanico              www.clarencebicknell.com/it/botanist    
Artista, Arts and Crafts   www.clarencebicknell.com/it/artista/arti-e-mestieri
Bordighera                  www.clarencebicknell.com/it/the-man/bordighera

Queste traduzioni, insieme a quelle che esistono già lì, rendono il sito web una risorsa ancora più importante per i ricercatori di lingua italiana e il pubblico in generale su Clarence Bicknell, le sue opere e il suo tempo. Attiriamo la vostra attenzione anche sulla pagina Documenti del sito web in cui circa 75 articoli su Clarence e sui suoi contemporanei, da esperti in ciascun campo, sono resi disponibili per intero, alcuni dei quali in italiano... https://www.clarencebicknell.com/it/downloads


Siamo lieti di pubblicare oggi su www.clarencebicknell.com un importante articolo su Bordighera ai tempi di Clarence Bicknell ... La famiglia reale britannica a Bordighera, i conti di Strathmore, la regina madre Elisabetta da bambina e la duchessa di Leeds della storica Gisella Merello. La tempistica della sua pubblicazione è utile perché Villa Etelinda, l’abitazione a Bordighera del bisnonno paterno dell'attuale regina Elisabetta II, sarà aperta al pubblico per le visite FAI questo domenica 24 marzo. La presenza della famiglia reale britannica a Bordighera era già conosciuta in passato, ma questa ricerca ben articolata di Gisella è la prima che riunisce tutti i dettagli e le fotografie nello stesso testo.L'articolo di Gisella Merello, disponibile nell'originale italiano, è anche stato tradotto in inglese, in modo da poter essere utilizzato come strumento informativo e promozionale per attrarre turisti ai tesori nascosti di Bordighera, rendendo più  interessante il loro soggiorno.



Siamo orgogliosi di poter pubblicare un articolo di un fan numero uno di Clarence Bicknell e responsabile del Museo Bicknell,  Dottssa. Daniela Gandolfi. Durante i cinque anni in cui i ricercatori dell'Associazione Clarence Bicknell lavoravano per preparare il centenario Clarence Bicknell 2018 e la biografia MARVELS – The Life of Clarence Bicknell di Valerie Lester, Daniela era stata per noi un costante sostegno mentre si prendeva cura delle sue principali responsabilità come archeologa e direttrice dell'Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri.

Tuttavia è per gli eventi del centenario, in particolare per la mostra al Museo Bicknell e al vicino Centro Nino Lamboglia, che ha lavorato in modo creativo e instancabile. La mostra, che ha presentato la nuova raccolta “Lotto 2017” di diari, foto e dipinti di Clarence, è stata ampiamente acclamata e viene prolungata a Bordighera. Una nuova mostra simile è stata inaugurata quest'anno a Finale Ligure, lungo la costa.L'articolo che pubblichiamo le fornisce un resoconto del centenario di Clarence ed è di per sé un prezioso contributo al patrimonio culturale immateriale che Clarence rappresenta per Bordighera e per i mondi più grandi delle comunità internazionali della Riviera e della scienza e dell'illuminazione alla fine del 19 ° secolo. Allo stesso tempo abbiamo pubblicato l'articolo scritto nel 2016 da Bruna de Paoli e Daniela Gandolfi su Clarence Bicknell per la conferenza “La Vita e le Opere” de Bicknell (Colligite fragmenta 2, Atti del Convegno Bordighera 2016, pp. XX-XX)




NEWS - Graham Avery at the European Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Group

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Graham Avery (Vice Chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association and author of excellent papers on our web site) will give a lecture on 'Clarence Bicknell - A British Botanist in the Maritime Alps' at the Annual Meeting of the European Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Group which takes place at Champex in Switzerland from 19 to 21 June 2019.

Graham discovered that the Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève has in its archives of scientific correspondence a collection of letters written by Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) to the Swiss botanist Emile Burnat (1828-1920). This archive of about 690 documents (including postcards) from the period 1886-1917 gives much information on Clarence Bicknell’s life, his botanical activity, and his research into the prehistoric rock art of the Maritime Alps. Graham anlysed and transcribed these letters and they provided valuable insight into Clarence for Valerie Lester when writing MARVELS. These letters provide more in the biography of Clarence's "voice" than any other source.

Graham's work with the Conservatoire and its Principal Librarian Pierre Boillat, and his skills in botany and history, have led to this invitation to speak at such an important conference. The event is closed to the public but enquiries can be made of the organisers.

News - Opening of the new entrance under the giant ficus tree to the garden of the Museo Bicknell in Bordighera

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .


Read a short report of the opening ceremony

Report in English e in italiano

Read the speech given in Italian by Marcus Bicknell (Chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association) at the opening ("L'apertura di questo giardino testimonia il desiderio dell'uomo di rispettare e proteggere il nostro patrimonio culturale immateriale").

Speech in English e in italiano


RESEARCH - the archaeology of Jules Masson-Mourey

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

We are delighted to publish two papers by the archaeologist Jules Masson Mourey and we thank him for his permission to do so.

The first, from December 2017 is on the curious phenomenon of rock engravings of humans with their feet turned inwards, pieds bots in French, and their occurrence in real life. Download the pdf here.

anthropmorphes3anthropmorphes2Thanthropmorphes1e second is brand new, 2019, from the International Newsletter On Rock Art ( INORA, 2019, N° 83), on Key Hole figures and ZigZag Arm anthropomorphs (Les figures "en trou de serrure" et de l'"Anthropomorphe aux bras en zigzag") in the Vallée des Merveilles. Download the pdf here.

Jules Masson Mourey
<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Doctorant contractuel, Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, Minist Culture, LAMPEA, Aix-en-Provence, France


In Clarence's Time - his father and Turner

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Gisella Merello kindly sent me snippets of the mention of Elhanan Bikcknell, Clarence's father, in the biography of Milais by his son. Interesting to read so clearly that Turner "disliked society, and was intimate with very few people, his principal friends being Mr. Bicknell of Denmark Hill, and Munro of Novar, though at times he frequented the Athenaeum Club".

The story about the Count d'Orsay (referred to in just a few words in the book) is a good one. I covered it some time ago because I have an original print of the picture in question. Read


In Clarence's Time - Dr John Goodchild, the Blue Bowl, Bordighera and Glastonbury

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

clarence bicknell movie poster 2016MAN OF MARVELS – CLARENCE BICKNELL was the title of the talk by Renchi Bicknell given to The Glastonbury Positive Living Group on November 15th 2018. But the material on Dr John Goodchild of Glastonbury and general practitioner in Bordighera, the BlueBowl, which many claimed is the Holy Grail, and the relationsip with Clarence Bicknell makes fascinating reading.

Renchi Bicknell is the great grand nephew of Clarence Bicknell. He is the son of Peter Bicknell, Cambridge architect and lecturer, who looked after the Bicknell collection of Clarence Bicknell books and drawings until his death in 1995, and who wrote in 1988 a mini-biography Clarence published on the www.clarencebicknell.com web site.  Renchi is an artist and writer living in Glastonbury  with his wife Vanessa. His approach to life and his spirituality put Renchi in an ideal position to assimilate Clarence Bicknell’s character and soul. His portrayal of Clarence in the 2016 film documentary The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell by French director Remy Masseglia was therefore more than convincing; his resemblance to Clarence is also uncanny (movie poster, right).

With this in mind, this account of Clarence and Dr Goodchild of Bordighera and Glastonbury takes on a powerful significance. Is this what Clarence would have believed about the Blue Bowl? It is certainly a more emotively told story than laying out academic research.

At the evening in Glastonbury, Renchi addressed a crowd of the faithful, mostly those who live with, and communicate, the beliefs concerning Glastonbury, Joseph, the Holy Grail, the Blue Bowl, the Chalice Well and the Tor. The audience found themselves involved with the subject not just with the projection of the film and Renchi’s text, but also with silences, exploration of the mind, an imaginary walk up the Val Fontanalba and hands-on experience of rubbing the rock engraving reliefs reproduced in wood for the occasion. Of the forty events during Clarence Bicknell’s 2018 Centenary this was the most characterful. 

The pdf version of Renchi's paper, with illustrations of Goodchild and his Blue Bowl, can be downloaded here.

In the footsteps of Clarence Bicknell - Peradeniya Gardens

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

peradeniya group jan2019In the footsteps of Clarence Bicknell
At the Peradeniya Gardens in Kandy, Sri Lanka.  

Monday 14th January 2019

Dr  Shelomi A. Krishnarajah, (Director General, Sri Lanka Department of National Botanic Gardens) and senior colleagues welcomed Marcus and Susie Bicknell at the National Herbarium today. 20 executives and scientists of the Peradeniya Gardens watched the film “The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell “ and heard a talk on Clarence Bicknell’s botany and art.

The discussion then covered his visit here in January 1908, the publication of historic botanical watercolours, the international networks of herbarium exchanges and the worldwide reputation of the Peradeniya Gardens (whose 200th anniversary will be celebrated in 2022) then and now.

The Bicknell family presented to the Peradeniya Gardens copies of the new biography of Clarence Bicknell “Marvels” and of his illustrated “Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book”. Dr Krishnarajah presented the Bicknells with copies of their new collection of botanical illustrations by three generations of the De Alwis Seneviratne family.

Photo left to right:
Mr. M. M. D. J. Senaratna (Deputy Director (Floriculture Research);
Dr. Subhani Ranasingh (Deputy Director, National Herbarium);
Ms. Chandrika Jayaweera (Director Development, Department of National Botanic Gardens);
Susie Bicknell (researcher at the Clarence Bicknell Association);
Dr  Shelomi A. Krishnarajah, (Director General, Sri Lanka Department of National Botanic Gardens);
Dr Achala Attanayake (Deputy Director Royal Botanic Gardens Sri Lanka and Curator of the Peradeniya Gardens);
Marcus Bicknell (Chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association and Clarence’s great grand nephew).

peradeniya discussion jan2019

peradeniya shelomi marcus susie jan2019









Note: The British botanist Clarence Bicknell visited the Royal Botanic Garden at Peradeniya in 1908 at the invitation of J.C. Willis the Director. This visit, and Bicknell's voyage round Sri Lanka, features in MARVELS, the new biography of Clarence Bicknell by Valerie Lester. The excerpt from the book is at https://www.clarencebicknell.com/en/news-views/163-in-clarence-s-time-his-trip-to-ceylon-in-1908 and in pdf at https://www.clarencebicknell.com/images/downloads_news/clarence_bicknell_in_ceylon_1908_lester.pdf.

peradeniya garden 1908

peradeniya location

The photo of the gardens with yellow borders is the approximate location of the black and white photo of the Peradeniya Gardens in Clarence's time.


News - Clarence and Sir Thomas Hanbury conference report

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

hanbury bicknell 26jan2019 bannerThe conference at the Hanbury Gardens on 26 January 2019 was the last of the 40 events in eight countries marking the Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary, but by some measures one of the best. I had been keen for several years, since hosting the friends of the Hanbury Gardens in London in 2016 and hearing their presentations at the Italian Institute, to be able to have a Bicknell-Hanbury event at the famous Hanbury Gardens. At the initiative of Alessandro Bartoli, dynamic secretary of their association, we accepted a date of 26 January 2019... Carolyn Hanbury assisted him in selecting the classiest speakers and in disciplining them to submit papers in advance and sticking to ten minutes each (oh well, 20 minutes). Success.

Carolyn Hanbury started off by welcoming the 80 attendees and talked about what is know of Hanbury and Bicknell's contacts.

A rare and very valuable contribution by Professor Mauro Mariotti, head of the Distav and the University of Genova (therefore the de facto curator of a collection of some thirteen thousand Clarence Bicknell watercolours, rock engraving copies, field diaries and plant samples) attributes to Clarence Bicknell the moniker Field Scientist. Today’s experts appreciate the work of enlightened amateurs almost as much as salaried professionals; work done by the citizen scientists, just for the love of the subject, can be very useful. I think Clarence would have liked the idea of being a citizen scientist; with his network of like-minded collectors and researchers, his love of people and his work on the universal language Esperanto, he was certainly a citizen. He may have blanched at the idea of being called a scientist; he read mathematics at Cambridge and was grounded in the church so he continually stressed that he was there to record the facts in the field, archaeological and botanical, and to leave the professionals to interpret them. Mariotti described Bicknell ‘s network of other botanists, his contribution to academic botany, the works in his library, and the dozen plants named after him. Note that his University of Genoa is the administrator of the Hanbury Gardens; the director Luigi Minuti was not present on the day. It was a thrill to see Mariotti’s love for and knowledge of Bicknell pulled together in one paper and and I think will remain a valuable account for a long time.

Dssa. Daniela Gandolfi, head of the International Institute of Ligurian Studies and of the Museo Bicknell which it owns, was fully justified blowing the trumpet about their contribution to the 2018 Clarence Bicknell Centenary. Their efforts in putting together their exhibition, for which Daniela as director was supported over the preparation period of two years by a team of staff and volunteers such as (those I know and have mutually supported) Franca Porra, Elena Riscosso, Bruna Di Paoli, Dr Giovanni Russo, Claudio Roggero, Gisela Merello, and others. The exhibition, whose run has just been extended to the end of March 2019 and will then move on the Finale Ligure and maybe even Genoa. It includes classic material from the Museo, loan items from collections like the Bicknell Collection which I curate and new items (Lotto 2017) purchased by the IISL.

Claudio Littardi accompanied Daniela Gandolfi to talk about the garden of the Museo Bicknell and its rare plants.

The 18-minute film The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell was projected, after which proceedings were drawn to an end without there being time for questions. Pity. More important was wandering up the garden to Carolyn's house for lunch.

I have asked permission to reproduce here the papers from each of the speakers but have not received approval yet.

hanbury bicknell 26jan2019



In Clarence's Time - his relationship with Sir Thomas Hanbury

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Thomas Hanbury from Hortus Mortolensis 1912clarence c1905 esperanto starThe conference of 26 January 2019 at the Hanbury Gardens has the title “Clarence Bicknell e Thomas Hanbury: due grandi vittoriani” (Clarence Bicknell and Thomas Hanbury: two great Victorians on the Riviera). These two, whose images are shown here, were men of dignity, science and benevolence, and we consider them both as “great” men. But does this tell the whole story? 

I have developed an increasing curiosity about Bicknell and Hanbury’s relationship, and the differences between their personalities. My research and conclusions are published today on this web site... Bicknell and Hanbury relationship in PDF

Valerie Lester in her book MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell describes the two men as friends . Clarence himself writes of “an old friend of the family”, a different concept, but it is not clear whether Clarence thinks of himself as a friend of the Hanbury family or Hanbury a friend of the Bicknells . I know of no meeting between Sir Thomas and other Bicknells, nor of Clarence and other Hanburys.

Graham Avery, student of Bicknell’s botany, and vice-chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association, writes that Hanbury and Bicknell were not friends . My contribution in this paper is to argue that Clarence’s shyness and inferiority complex might have kept him at a distance from Sir Thomas. He might have felt his station was below that of Sir Thomas. Rather than being Hanbury’s friend, Clarence might have been in awe of him and of his construction of the Hanbury Gardens.

I discuss in my paper Clarence's speech impediment, his inclination to violent prejudices, his prejudice against the pompous, Bicknell family traits, and Clarence's friendship with Alwyn Berger. With with evidence in mind, I think Clarence would have felt ill at ease with Sir Thomas. It would not have been one of Clarence’s priorities to seek out Hanbury’s company; indeed he would have thought of a trip to la Mortola as being an opportunity to talk seeds with Berger. But the two men would have had immense respect for each other and their achievements.

NEWS - Clarence the landscape painter

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

clarence bicknell paesaggio di montagnaLeggi l'intero articolo in italiano e inglese e guarda i dipinti, nella versione pdf qui

I was honoured to visit on 30th October 2018 in Imperia, 45 kms east of Bordighera, the exhibition of art by Bicknell and his contemporaries on the Riviera. Landscapes by Nestel, van Kleudgen, Edward Lear and others, all familiar in Bordighera and Riviera circles, were exhibited alongside Bicknell’s in the Villa Faravelli up the hill from the town hall and owned by the community.

Organised in the summer and autumn of 2018 by a cooperative, and alongside the galleries of the Museo Arte Contemporanea Imperia, this exhibition Clarence Bicknell e lo Stupore Della Riviera is a perfectly-formed gem. The exhibition explored, according to the publicity, Bicknell’s influence on the circle of artists in the second half of the 19th century in Liguria. The influence might of course have been vice-versa.

Clarence Bicknell, mountain landscape

“Clarence Bicknell, Landscape Artist” is now a valid title, among many, for our favourite post-Darwinian polymath.


Read the whole article in Italian and English, and see the paintings, in the pdf version here

Leggi l'intero articolo in italiano e inglese e guarda i dipinti, nella versione pdf qui

NEWS - Saxifraga Florulenta named the symbol of Piedmont

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

saxifraga florulentaSaxifraga Florulenta named the symbol of Piedmont by 500 experts. Clarence would be pleased...
Elette le piante simbolo di ognuna delle 20 regioni italiane... Quella scelta per rappresentare il Piemonte è la nostra bella ed endemica sassifraga dell'Argentera (Saxifraga florulenta). L’iniziativa, promossa dalla Società Botanica Italiana, è stata coordinata da Lorenzo Peruzzi, professore di Botanica sistematica presso il Dipartimento di Biologia dell’Università di Pisa e Direttore dell’Orto e Museo Botanico. A votare sono stati oltre 500 appassionati ed esperti botanici da tutta Italia che hanno eletto le piante vincitrici a partire da una rosa di candidature, con un meccanismo per certi versi simile a quello delle primarie.
La pianta più votata in assoluto è stata la sassifraga dell’Argentera, pianta monocarpica (fruttifica una volta sola), rupicola, sopravvissuta alle glaciazioni, con stupendi fiori rosa, e caratteristica delle Alpi Marittime italiane e francese.
Elected the symbol plants of each of the 20 Italian regions... That choice to represent Piedmont is our beautiful and endemic saxifrage of the Argentera (Saxifraga florulenta). The initiative, promoted by the Italian Botanical Society, was coordinated by Lorenzo Peruzzi, professor of Systematic Botany at the Department of Biology of the University of Pisa and Director of the Garden and Botanical Museum. More than 500 enthusiasts and botanists from all over Italy voted to vote, choosing the winning plants starting from a shortlist of candidates, with a mechanism similar in some ways to the primaries.The most voted plant of all was the sassifraga dell'Argentera, monocarpica plant (fruit only once), rupicola, survivor of the glaciations, with beautiful pink flowers, and characteristic of the Italian and French Maritime Alps.
With thanks to Elisabetta Massardo who took the photo of Saxifraga Florulenta for MARVELS, page 116, for alerting us to this story.
To remind you of the importance of this plant to Clarence, permit me to quote from Valerie's MARVELS, page 117:
Clarence had one other complaint: the lack of interesting wildflowers in the area, and he confessed to Burnat that ‘botanically I have done very little. It is much less rich here than at Val Pesio, and even when I climb up to the lakes of Valmasca, d’Agnel, the Meraviglie, and M. Bégo (where nothing escapes the goats!) I always find the same old plants.’ And he had spent many fruitless, frustrating hours searching for the rare Saxifraga florulenta.
His persistence paid off. By the end of the summer he related to Burnat that he had finally found that elusive plant in bloom. Although Clarence does not describe the actual moment he saw it, the great plant collector Reginald Farrer (1880–1920) was extravagant in his description of his sighting of it in 1910 on the Col de Cerise:
‘Grey obscurity enveloped all the slope, swirling and shifting, lightening and darkening. And now the sharp zigzags of the track brought me up against the buttress of Mercantour. For an instant the mist dissolved into a pearly shade. And in that momentary rending of the veil I found myself looking straight into the face of Saxifraga florulenta. For a moment I could not believe my eyes; for another moment I felt convinced, insanely, that some botanist must have put the rosette there as a practical joke . . . Then, when my reason had ceased rocking on its seat, I rent the welkin with a cry of triumph.’
After his great yell, Farrer calmed down and ‘in awe-stricken silence contemplated for the first time the Ancient King of his race, the most wonderful plant in all the ranges of the Alps.
The Ancient King is a large and rare succulent with a small range, found exclusively within the central section of the Maritime Alps between Tende and Argentera. Fussy about its location, it finds its preferred home in crevices of acidic rock, often hiding in hard-to-reach spots. Year by year, over decades, its fleshy leaves multiply into a perfect rosette until it is mature enough to flower. Then (the eloquent Farrer again); ‘Up from its heart comes a stout glandular spike which develops into a stocky spire, of some eight or ten inches, very thickly set with nodding flowers of a purple rose, most wonderful to see.’ Its 40 or more bell-shaped flowers are impossible to miss. But that’s it; once having achieved its reproductive climax, it withers and dies. No wonder the Ancient King used to be the emblem of the modern-day Parc National du Mercantour, which includes the Vallée des Merveilles and the Val Fontanalba.
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