Event - The Bristol Botanists - 22 November 2017

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

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 (http://www.clarencebicknell.com/ ), 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 http://www.clarencebicknell.com/images/downloads_news/bristol_botanists_at_casa_fontanalba.pdf

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?

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

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 http://www.tendemerveilles.com/component/content/category/31-musees.html 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 http://www.tendemerveilles.com/hebergements-restaurations/item/les-melezes.html .

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. https://www.valcasterino.fr/ 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.

In Clarence's Time - Mr. Bicknell or the Rev. Bicknell?

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Graham Avery writes...

"Clarence was active as a pastor, even after he gave up his work in the Church.

"I use the expression 'gave up his work in the Church' because it's misleading to say that he 'left the Church'. He didn't send a letter to the Bishop resigning his post at Bordighera; he didn't need to since, like his predecessors, he was appointed for one season.

"A person ordained as a priest continues to be 'in holy orders' unless the Church expels him, which as far as we know was not the case for Clarence. The canon law of the Church of England says that "No person who has been admitted to the order of bishop, priest, or deacon can ever be divested of the character of his order" though the Church has processes to allow clergy (by own volition or otherwise) to cease to function in the role, see article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defrocking#Anglicanism

"One should therefore consider Clarence after 1879 as a priest of the Church of England without ecclesiastical function - in fact, he was still entitled to be addressed as 'The Reverend' though evidently he didn't want that. "


In Clarence's Time - Francis Galton in Bordighera

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Francis Galton 1850sMaddalena Cataldi is here at our home near London looking at the Clarence materials for her PhD provisionally entitled ""Découvrir et Comprendre les Gravure Rupestres du Mont Bégo". Like us, she has let her mind wander over Clarence's person and his time in Bordighera and Casterino. Within minutes she had found a little gem which I had not noticed ...

Francis Galton was according to Wiki an "English Victorian statistician, progressive, polymath, sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, and psychometrician. " Hm that long list is reminiscent of someone. He is also Charles Darwin's cousin, graduate of Trinity College Cambridge like Clarence, and his contemporary.

He was staying at the Villa Rosa with Margaret and Edward Berry (he was Clarence's nephew) in February 1905 and signed their visitors' book (which is in our collection). According to letters hidden in the internet he had also been in Bordighera in 1902 staying in the Hotel de Londres. "This blessed Riviera air".I have seen no evidence that he knew or met Clarence, but in 1905 CB would have been thick as thieves with the Berrys and would have met many of their guests, especially a scientist of this repute?

NEWS - Esperanto version of the film now released

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

clarence c1905 esperanto star close upThe Esperanto version of our 18-minute documentary film "The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell" is now on public release via the internet. To view, now, click on https://vimeo.com/clarencebicknell/esperanto .

You can also watch  "The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell" in English, French or Italian at www.vimeo.com/clarencebicknell.com

The Esperanto version will have its World Premier at the Italian Esperanto Association's Congress at Molicoro (Matera) Southern Italy this Friday, 1st September at 15h00.  Nicola Minnaja will lecture on Clarence Bicknell at the same event. The sneak preview at the British Esperanto Congress in Edinburgh in May went well, as did the preview at the International Esperanto Congress in Seoul, South Korea, on 22nd July.

The Esperanto version of the documentary film on Clarence Bicknell, directed by Rémy Masséglia and produced by Marcus Bicknell, was thanks to the energies and persistence of Esperanto supporters Michela Lipari (Director of the Italian Esperanto Association) and Humphrey Tonkin (President & University Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus, Hartford University, USA). <La Mirindaĵoj de Clarence Bicknell> has been voiced into Esperanto by Wera esperanto film title pageBlanke, Bill Chapman and Angela Tellier. We are proud to provide to the Esperanto community worldwide a precious memento of Clarence Bicknell's love for and support of the universal language. The response from the Esperanto community (there are about 100,000 of them worldwide) has been remarkable.

The photo of Clarence shows him wearing his five-pointed Esperanto star. I recently read in one of his diaries that he wore the green four-pointed star when he first joined the Esperanto movement in 1897, and graduated to the five-pointed star when he could read, speak and write Esperanto. Is this still the process today?

NEWS - Valerie Lester in IISL journal

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

Valerie Lester, working away on the biography of Clarence Bicknell for 2018, takes a moment's relief to write to us "After my stay in Bordighera in February 2015 (that terribly cold winter), Dr. Daniela Gandolfi asked me to write a report on my experience at the IISL and Bicknell museum. I did it, and I thought that was that, but lo and behold, I’m now a bona fide contributor to " Ligures ", the official revue of the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri!!!!"pdf download icon

You can read Valerie's report by clicking on the pdf logo.

NEWS - new donations to The Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary Fund

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

fund thermometerTwo new major donations received to the The Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary Fund ... what encouraging news. Now is the time for you to support us too, see below.

The Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri (IISL) has been able to put €5,000 in to the fund, and the Clarence Bicknell Association (CBA) has been able to secure a donation from a USA-based trust for about €8,000 (exacty figure will be known when the transfer arrives). These two donations are in addition to the €12,736 secured form the USA by the CBA in April.

With the €25,000 raised the IISL can proceed with Phase 1 of the works on the entrance to the garden where the giant Ficus tree has swallowed the gate, and new signage. Bordighera-based Architects Alessandro Liotta & Aldo Panetta are working closely with Dr Daniela Gandolfi and planning permission has bene secured. This will be a great way to celebrate the 2018 Centenary of Clarence's death.

A few thousand euros are in the fund for the 2018 exhibitions round Europe; more details soon.

We would be most grateful if, when you read this piece, you a) join the Clarence Bicknell Association www.clarencebicknell.com >Association >Membership b) make a donation yourself (button on the website home page) and c) make a couple of calls to contacts you might have who have the means to make a donation too.

There is SWAG! That's the current US term for gifts you'll receive from us if you donate and these include signed copies of the new biography on Clarence and/or the quality print repro of the Casa Fontanalba Visitors' Book etc. The list of what you can get is on the last page of the information about the campaign: click on the pdf link.pdf download icon


In Clarence's Time - St. Joseph's Home for the Aged Poor

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

home for the aged 1home for the aged 2home for the aged 3As part of the research for Valerie Lester on the upcoming biography of Clarence Bicknell, we have been able to see and record collections of letters and images relating to his life but kept in far-flung museums.

We knew from Christopher Chippindale that Clarence Bicknell's letters to the Baroness Von Taube were in the British Museum (Natural History) in London, and was exciting to go to look through them and to photograph some of them. The letters themselves are being transcribed so that they can be read more easily and it may be that we can make them available on this web site in 2018.

In the meantime I found some images which might be of interest to you.

Little is recorded about Clarence's work for the underprivileged of Bordighera, but this must also be of interest to Valerie Lester for the biography. Here is the second appeal for funds, on two pages, for the fitting out of St. Joseph's Home for the Aged Poor, probably late December 1911 or early 1912. Clarence (for it is surely he who wrote the text) credits Giacomo Vialle's efforts as follows...

"Padre Giacomo, our unwearied Apostle of Charity, has been in some mesaure able to realise a project which he has had at heart for many years, namely, the foundation of a Home for the Aged Poor"

50,000 francs were still need to "furnish and endow the home".

The third photo is the subscription bulletin to fill out if you wanted to give some money. There are several lines on the form which should have encouraged supporters to solicit donations from others.

By the way, although I did not post this pictures with this in mind, the The Clarence Bicknell 2018 Centenary Fund is open and you can donate in a variety of ways including PayPal and bank transfer in the UK or France in any currency. Target 110,000 euros. We have three major donations in and I will publish them this week. Details in English here and in Italian here

Next to them in the British Museum collection is this postcard of The Tearooms at Bordighera, probably around 1910. Was it here that Bicknell would distribute the appeal letters on behalf of his friend Viale?

Does anyone have a copy of this card with more details, such as the exact date?



NEWS - The Bristol Botanists, a study by Graham Avery

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

casa fontanalba visitors book frontispieceGraham Avery’s study, published today on www.clarencebicknell.com, of the Bristol Botanists and their relationship with Clarence Bicknell is one of the most interesting discoveries to come out of the two books which list people who went to the Casa Fontanalba, discussed below.

The background is worth relating here. The names of Clarence’s visitors in the "Casa Fontanalba Visitors' Book" were first transcribed into MS Excel by Marcus Bicknell in 2011 and made available on the internet. I did not know who most of the people were but felt that we would be able to find out about them from other researchers if we made the names available. Indeed, a few months later on the 18th of March 2012, I was pleased to receive an email from Graham Avery which included the following...

“The reason why I am writing to you is that the other day I found on the internet your transcription of the Casa Fontanalba visitors’ book, where on 19 July 1910 the name of Reginald Farrer appears together with that of Clarence Elliott. Your transcription adds notes on Elliott and Farrer and their roles in alpine gardening and plant hunting, but I wonder if you are aware that Farrer later mentioned this encounter with Bicknell in two of his publications?

“In ‘Among The Hills’ (1911) Farrer described his visit to Val Casterino in 1910, and in ‘The English Rock Garden’ (1919) he referred to Clarence Bicknell as ‘a famous English botanist’, recommending readers to visit the house where he ‘spends long summers in the course of which he asks nothing better than to show the treasures of the hills to such fellow-collectors as desire to see them’.

“I have been interested in Reginald Farrer for some time, particularly his books on his botanical excursions in the Maritime Alps (‘Among The Hills: A Book of Joy in High Places’) and the Dolomites (‘The Dolomites: King Laurin’s Garden‘).

“If it is of interest to you, I could submit a short piece for publication in ‘On Beacon Hill’ about Bicknell and Farrer, quoting more fully the passages from the books mentioned above, together with a few comments on the two men and their encounter in 1910.

So began a relationship which has proved most fruitful to me and to Graham, the most important of which is the research Graham has provided on Bicknell’s botany and his network of collectors, shown in the 20 papers he has written for us and which are published on our web site www.clarencebicknell.com. For example, Graham discovered that Bicknell sent 1,157 pressed flowers and 680 letters to Emile Burnat, botanist of Geneva; Graham’s original research and the paper he published with us is an example of the depth and significance of his recent findings about Bicknell.

I was encouraged by this input from Graham and from others who knew about one or more person who signed the Visitors’ Book. So I proceeded to transcribe in 2013 those listed and illustrated in a second album, Clarence’s “Book of Guests in Esperanto” and two books published by Clarence “Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Riviera” and “A Guide to the Prehistoric Rock Engravings in the Italian Maritime Alps”. These lists are all available on the same Excel spreadsheet.

pimpinella bicknelliiGraham was intrigued by some further names written up by Clarence in the “Book of Guests in Esperanto”, and the placename “Bristol” alongside some of them. A link? Graham wrote to the appropriate organisations in Bristol and was pleased to get strong research support from Clive Lovatt, Archivist of the Bristol Naturalists’ Society, and Hannah Lowery, Archivist of Special Collections at the Arts and Social Sciences Library of the University of Bristol the Bristol Natural History Society. It turns out that the three Bristol men in Bicknell’s book were members of the Bristol Naturalists’ Society; it is possible that they had contacted Bicknell in 1903 before their trip to Majorca in search of the Pimpinella variety (image, right) which Bicknell had identified there and which was subsequently name Pimpinella bicknelli. They visited Bicknell in the Casa Fontanalba in 1907 and 1911.

Graham’s paper on the three Bristol Botanists and their exchanges was completed in July 2017 and is published on www.clarencebicknell.com. I am delighted that Graham’s research into Clarence’s personal albums has revealed this interesting information about the Bristol Botanists and in all his other contributions is of importance to our knowledge of Bicknell and his work.  It is also gratifying that Graham chooses to make his research available to academic communities and to those interested in Clarence. As Graham himself concludes...
“Bicknell was a remarkable figure: having passed the first half of his life in one country (England), he spent the second half in another (Italy) and corresponded with scientists in others (France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland). He was not only a botanist but an archaeologist, artist, man of letters, Esperantist, pastor and philanthropist. Like him, the botanists from Bristol were distinguished in fields other than botany. The interwoven contacts between these men illustrate the extent and diversity of cultural and scientific exchange in Europe in the years before the Great War.”

RESEARCH - Clarence Bicknell and Pimpinella bicknellii

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .


During a botanical excursion in 1897 on the Mediterranean island of Majorca  Clarence Bicknell found an interesting plant. He realised that it was a member of the Umbellifer family – plants with long stems and flowers forming clusters (‘umbels’) – but he could not identify the species. After returning to his home in Bordighera he sent it and other specimens to the Conservatoire Botanique in Geneva, where the Curator, John Briquet, determined that it was a new species, which in honour of its finder he named Pimpinella Bicknellii.

Graham Avery has recorded what we know about the discovery and naming of the plant and you can download the complete 7-page pdf here

NEWS - Val Sasso in Clarence's 1906 painting compared

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

img 1235 sasso valley bordighera 1906 cSo pleased that our friend Dr Pietro Piana (who is Leverhulme Research Fellow, School of Geography at the University of Nottingham) has been able to make conclusions on the change in landscape in the Val Sasso near Bordighera from a 1906 water-colour by Clarence Bicknell which we provided to him. I find this fascinating Pietro, thanks.
Read his web page here:
...and download his summary findings in English and in Italian (pdf) here:
.. e scaricate le sue risultanze di sintesi in inglese e in italiano (pdf) qui:
pdf download icon

NEWS - Clarence and friends at the Casa Fontanalba in mid-winter

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

casterino winterWorking with Valerie Lester on research for her biography on Clarence Bicknell is very rewarding. Valerie asked me yesterday "Right now I’m knee deep in the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book, and I find something out of whack in 1906. You have P.D. Peche (spelling?) and Desiree Mary Leake signing their names in it on 27th December. This is hard to believe. Do you think they visited Clarence in Bordighera and so loved the book that they felt compelled to sign it? I can’t imagine that Clarence took them up to Casterino (at 1565 metres above sea level, under snow from October to April - Ed.) in deep winter . . ."

So I got the vellum-bound album out and had a look. I realised quickly that "P.D.Peche" was my misreading back in 2011 when I transcribed the vistitors' book. You can download that transcript from our web site at the "Documents" page. It is of course "P.D.Leake" who we know from other entries in the Visitors' Book, and from the Book of Guests in Esperanto, is Percy D. Leake, husband of Desirée Mary Leake. I could not find any mention of the Leakes on the internet in half an hour, so if you know anything about them please write to us.

Here's the page from the Visitors' Book (image below).   It's clear that they signed the book in late December because they wrote the dates out in full. Do we have any record of Clarence Bicknell going up the mountain in winter? I did not recollect such an expedition, which would have been arduous and perilous getting to St Dalmas by coach and aven more difficult getting from there up the trail to Casterino. But not impossible. If they were not in the Casa Fontanalba but visiting in Bordighera then a question mark would be posed about all signatories being guests in the Casa Fontanalba. Luckily, the Leakes are featured in the Book of Guests in which Clarence writes a short bio of people (and dogs) he liked (and/or who visited the Casa Fontanalba) in Esperanto...

"Percy D. Leake, rajtigita kalkulisto en London. Mi konatiĝis kun Gesinjoroj Leake sur la Pasejo de Monte Mora inter Saas kaj Macugnaga, kaj poste ni amikiĝis. Ili vizitis min in Bordighera Kristnaskan 1906 jaj pasigis tri tagojn en la neĝo."

and I did the translation...

"Percy D. Leake, a chartered accountant in London. I met Mr. and Mrs. Leake on the Monte Mora Pass between Saas and Macugnaga, and then we became friends. They visited me in Bordighera at Christmas 1906 and spent three days in the snow."

Our colleague researcher Graham Avery was right on the case too. With an hour he wrote back to Valerie and me "Look at the transcript of the Bicknell-Burnat correspondence for the period 1906-10 (available on www.clarencebicknell.com) that I sent to you and Valerie on 11 April 2017 and you will see that on 1 January 1907 Clarence wrote to Emile Burnat in Geneva:"

'J’ai passé, avec mes hôtes d’Angleterre, 2 nuits à Val Casterino. C’était un peu difficile d’y arriver à cause de la glace qui çà et là couvrait le sentier, et nous n’avions pas le pioche alpin pour couper les pas'.

'I spent, with my guests from England, 2 nights at Val Casterino. It was a bit difficult to get there because of the ice which covered the path, and we did not have an alpine pickaxe to cut steps.'

So there it is. Clarence and his mountaineering friends went to the Casa Fontanalba, brand new, in the depth of winter (pun intended).

 casa fontanalba visitors book p3


I wonder if G.D Peake is the botanist mentioned in ghe 1918 annual of The Botanical Society and Exchange Club, in which there is a short bio of CB:
http://archive.bsbi.org.uk/BEC_1918_Vol_5_pt_3.pdf.Book of Guests in Esperanto

Book of Guests in Esperanto by Clarence Bicknell:

p. 44 Percy D. Leake Writer on Accountancy, London 1906 Anemone alpina L.
p. 46 Desiree Mary Leake Wife of P.D.Leake 1906 Primula marginata Cust.

Clarence Bicknell visitors’ book at Casa Fontanalba:

p. 3 P.D. Leake 27 12 1906 29 12 1906
p. 3 Desiree Mary Leake 27 12 1906 29 12 1906
p. 6 Desiree Mary Leake 26 8 1908    
p. 6 Percy.D. Leake 26 8 1908 Signed P.D. Leake.

I have left the accent off Desirée in places because it goes wrong in so many email programmes.

Macugnaga is a mountain village at 1,327 metres elevation, in the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, in the north of the Piedmont region of Italy. The Monte More Pass is east of Zermatt and south of Saas Fe, exactly on the Italian-Swiss border.

In Clarence's Time - Van Biesbroeck and Bicknell in Boridghera

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

van biesbroeck autoportait 1891See the English translation below.

Ho eseguito una scansione e analizzando ulteriormente il libro degli ospiti della Casa Fontanalba di Clarence Bicknell in esperanto, un piccolo album legato alla vellum nella collezione di famiglia Bicknell. Una la pagina a sinistra Clarence scrive alcune parole in esperanto su qualcuno che ha soggiornato presso la Casa Fontanalbe, illuminando le iniziali della persona con temi e colori dal disegno botanico sulla destra. Oggi ho incontrato quello che pensavo fosse un piccolo mistero da contemplare. In diverse occasioni CB, dopo aver utilizzato le pagine in ordine fino al 1915, trova particolari pagine vuote precedentemente nel libro per inserire nuovi ospiti. Faccio allegare la pagina 20 in cui fu scritto il F May Dickinson Berry nel 1906. CB ha aggiunto due persone nel 1915, il secondo dei quali è Ninian R Bell, redattore della rivista britannica di Bordighera. Tra i due è un ospite scritto in rosso il cui nome manca. Infatti il ​​testo non è ancora stato completato. Il testo che viene mostrato è tradotto da Google e da me come ...

"... ha promesso di portarli, e ha rotto la porta, gli armadi e così via e distrutta e saccheggiata ..."

Chi o cosa avrebbe potuto avere? Un cane? Ma un cane non può fare una promessa. Alcuni vandali? Mi guardai intorno per una voce in una mano e una penna simile e ho trovato la risposta. Nella pagina precedente 18 Clarence ha aggiunto Jules van Biesbroeck, nel 1915. Questo è l'artista che ha insegnato a Clarence come disegnare in sanguigno, un gesso di colore marrone-rossastro, chiamato perchè assomiglia al colore del sangue secco. Clarence esaurisce lo spazio a pagina 18 per continuare nello spazio a pagina 20 al centro della frase. La nota completa di van Biesbroeck vale la pena:

"Jules van Biesbroeck, scultore e pittore belga, ha lasciato la sua casa, accanto a Ghent, per qualche giorno prima dell'arrivo dei selvaggi tedeschi: trenta soldati non hanno voluto aspettare le chiavi che la governante ha promesso di portarle e ha rotto Giù per la porta, gli armadi e così via, distrutti e saccheggiati ".

book of guests 18 james berry jules van biesbroeckbook of guests 20 dickinson berry ninian bell













Così ora sappiamo che van Biesbroeck lasciò Bruxelles nel 1914 a causa dei tedeschi invasori e si trasferì a Bordighera. Questo è ciò che ha detto a Clarence.

Di più su van Biesbroeck e Bordighera. Jules Pierre van Biesbroeck era figlio di Jules Evarist van Biesbroeck, pittore di Gand. Nacque in Italia a Portici, nei pressi di Napoli, durante un viaggio compiuto dai genitori: nell'Ottocento molti artisti compivano viaggi formativi in Italia ed il padre di Jules non fece eccezione; si trattò di un viaggio importante perché il bambino aveva già due anni quando la famiglia rientrò a Gand. Il ragazzo dopo un breve periodo di pratica con il padre fu iscritto all'Accademia di belle arti di Gand. La sua prima tela, Le Pâtre, la vendette alla Triennale di Gand. Nel 1888, a soli 15 anni, debuttò al Salon des Champs-Elysées di Parigi con la monumentale opera Le lancement d'Argo. La tela, di 7,5 metri per 2,6, suscitò molto scalpore per la nudità dei personaggi. Il ragazzo, convocato a Parigi, colpì per la giovane età e con sorpresa di tutti ottenne una menzione d'onore; tuttavia, condizione a che si potesse esporre il quadro, i personaggi furono rivestiti con drappeggi. Nel 1895 iniziò a dedicarsi anche alla scultura ed il suo talento fu premiato da varie commesse tra cui un monumento a François Laurent per una piazza di Gand, e un altro in onore di Jean Volder. Nel 1897 giunse secondo al "Prix de Rome belge" per la scultura, dopo Henri Boncquet, e nel 1898 arrivò ancora secondo nella sezione dedicata alla pittura.

van biesbroeck bordigheraDal 1914 si trasferì a Bordighera a villa “Own Nest” dove si dedicò sia alla scultura, suo primo interesse, e alla pittura di matrice impressionista con punte d’eccellenza per le tematiche orientaliste. In questo periodo ha conosciuto Clarence Bicknell, l'ingresso nel libro degli ospiti di Clarence Bicknell in esperanto datato 1915. Tra le esposizioni più importanti: Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte di Venezia nel 1922, Esposizione Quadriennale di Torino nel 1927. Nel 1924 è documentata una sua personale a Milano, Galleria Pesaro con presentazione a catalogo di Vittorio Pica. Nel 1934 incontrò ad Algeri in pittore di Bordighera Giuseppe Balbo con il quale strinse amicizia.

In Italia è possibile ammirare la sua "Deposizione" a Bordighera nella Chiesa della Immacolata Concezione o Terrasanta. (Nel 1883 Padre Giacomo Viale, l'effervescente parroco della Citta Vecchia, decide di fondare una nuova chiesa per i fedeli che affollano la nuova citta cresciuta in pianura. Affida il progetto all'architetto francese Charles Garnier, che disegna un curioso edificio dal profilo orientaleggiante, fiancheggiato da due palme e sormontato da due agili torrette. L'interno, illuminato da belle vetrate neogotiche di manifattura francese, è decorato da opere di artisti stranieri. Il parigino H. Poinsot dipinge la cupola, mentre un altro francese, Marcel Jambon, realizza i disegni per i dipinti murali. In chiesa è conservata una Deposizione del belga Jules-Pierre Van Biesbroeck di Gand.)

Nel 1926 viaggiò in Nord Africa, dove subì il fascino dell'Algeria. La luce e le atmosfere del Maghreb lo spinsero a usare colori più chiari e a dedicarsi a soggetti orientaleggianti. Algeri ebbe una tale influenza su di lui, che vi risedette per nove anni sino al 1938. Famoso divenne il suo atelier, chiamato “La volière”. Nel 1938 rientrò a Gand dove rimase sino alla morte, sopraggiunta a 92 anni nel 1965.



"View Of Bordighera. Jules Pierre Van Biesbroeck. Oil On Cardboard. 1900." This painting was part of an exhibition dedicated to the artist in 1900 in Paris. . Titled back "on the road to Sassa.



English translation:

I have been scanning and further analysing the The Book of Guests at The Casa Fontanalba by Clarence Bicknell in Esperanto, a small vellum bound album in the Bicknell family collection. One the left hand page Clarence writes some words in Esperanto about someone who has stayed at the Casa Fontanalbe, illuminating the person's initials with themes and colours from the botanical drawing on the right hand page. Today I came across what I thought was a little mystery to contemplate. On several occasions CB, having used the pages in order up to 1915, finds empty part-pages earlier in the book to insert new guests. I attach page 20 where F May Dickinson Berry was written up in 1906. CB has added two individuals in 1915, the second of which is Ninian R Bell, editor of the British Magazine in Bordighera. In between the two is a guest written in red whose name is missing. In fact the text has not been completed either. The text which is shown is translated by Google and me as...

"... promised to take them, and broke the door, the cupboards and so on and destroyed and plundered..."

Who or what could have this have been. A dog? But a dog can't make a promise. Some vandals?

I looked around for an entry in a similar hand and colour pen, and found the answer. On the previous page 18 Clarence has added Jules van Biesbroeck, in 1915. This is the artist who taught Clarence how to draw in sanguine, chalk of a reddish-brown colour, so called because it resembles the colour of dried blood. Clarence runs out of space on page 18 so he continues on the space on page 20 in the middle of the sentence. The complete note about van Biesbroeck is worth the effort:

"Jules van Biesbroeck. Belgian sculptor and painter. He left his house, next to Ghent for a few days before the arrival of the German savages. Thirty soldiers did not want to wait for the keys that the housekeeper promised to bring them, and broke down the door, the cupboards and so on and destroyed and plundered."

So now we know that van Biesbroeck left Brussels in 1914 because of the invading Germans and moved to Bordighera. That is what he told Clarence.

Some background, from Wikipedia and other sources. Jules Pierre van Biesbroeck is the son of Jules Evarist van Biesbroeck, painter of Ghent. Jules was born by accident in Italy in Portici, near Naples, during a trip made by his parents. In the nineteenth century many artists were making educational trips in Italy and Jules’ father was no exception to the rule. It was an important trip because the child was already two years old when the family returned to Ghent. After a short period of practice with his father, the boy was enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts of Ghent. His first painting, "The pâtre" is sold at the Triennale in Ghent. In 1888, when he was only 15 years old, he made his debut at the "Salon des Champs-Elysées" in Paris with his monumental work "The lancement d'Argo." The canvas 7.5 meters by 2.6, caused quite a stir for the nakedness of his characters. The boy, called to Paris, amazed viewers for his young age and, to everyone's surprise, he obtained a "special mention". However, in order to expose the picture, his characters were "covered" with drapery. In 1895 he began to devote himself to sculpture and his talent was rewarded by various orders including a monument to François Laurent, for a square in Ghent and another in honour of Jean Volder. In 1897 he came second in the Belgian "Prix de Rome" for sculpture after Henri Boncquet and in 1898 he will again be second in the section devoted to painting.

In 1914 he moved to Bordighera to the villa called "Own Nest" where he dedicated himself to sculpture, his first interest, and to impressionist painting with oriental themes. He met Clarence Bicknell in this period, the entry in Clarence Bicknell's guest book in Esperanto being dated 1915.  Among the most important exhibitions: the Venice International Art Exhibition in 1922, the Four Year Exhibition of Turin in 1927. In 1924, a personal exhibition was documented in Milan, Pesaro Gallery with a catalog presentation of Vittorio Pica. In 1934 he met in Algiers in the painter of Bordighera Giuseppe Balbo, with whom he made friends.In Italy it is possible to admire his “Deposition” in Bordighera in the Church of the Immaculate Conception or Terrasanta. In 1883, Father Giacomo Viale, the effervescent pastor of the Old City, decided to found a new church for the faithful who flock to the new city that grew up on the coastal plain. He gave the project to the French architect Charles Garnier, designing a curious building with an oriental profile, flanked by two palm trees and topped by two turrets.The interior, illuminated by beautiful neo-gothic French glassworks, is decorated by works by foreign artists; Parisian H. Poinsot painted the dome, while another Frenchman, Marcel Jambon, did the wall paintings. The “Deposition”  by Jules-Pierre Van Biesbroeck of Ghent  is preserved in the church.In 1926 he made a trip to North Africa, where he fell under the charm of Algeria. The light and atmosphere of Maghreb will push him to use lighter colours and engage in oriental subjects. Algiers will have such an influence on him that he will reside there for nine years until 1938. His studio, called "La volière”, became extremely famous throughout the city. In 1938 he left to go back to Gand where he said till his death, in 1965.


NEWS - Clarence Bicknell centenary exhibition - Genoa May 2018

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

2018 Centenary events, here we come. Prof. Mauro Mariotti of the Università degli Studi di Genova has just confirmed, thanks to the director of the Museo di Palazzo Reale, Dott.ssa Serena Bertolucci, that our exhibition of Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) will take place in May 2018 in the Teatro Falcone. This is an annex of the Palazzo Reale, Genoa, recently renovated.

Mauro Mariotti will be able to show in public for the first time Clarence's field diaries of expeditions into the Merveilles and Fontanalba to find, copy and log those 11,000 rock engravings, and botanical watercolours which Clarence gave to the university in Genoa.

Here's a photo of the Teatro Falcone back in the 1970s. The Teatro Falcone, at the beginning of the century, saw the beginning of opera in Genoa. Niccolò Paganini (Genoa 1782 – Nice 1840) performed on November 9, 1827 in the presence of King Carlo Felice (Duke of Savoy, Piedmont, Aosta and King of Sardinia from 1821 to 1831) and the royal family. http://www.niccolopaganini.it/…/2…/la_genova_di_paganini.pdf

NEWS - Clarence Bicknell film shown in Florence and Rome

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

chippindale rome may2017The screenings of the 18-minute documentary film "The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell" continue on their prestigious route round the world. The latest were in Florence and Rome, with presentations by Clarence Bicknell experts at each. Even if the audience numbers were small, they and we enjoyed the evenings immensely. Our photo, right, shows the impressive figure of Christopher Chippindale emphasising a comment on the horned figures of the Mont Bego, which Clarence recorded at length.

Wednesday 3 May 2017. The British Institute of Florence screened The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell in English at a special event there with a talk given by Graham Avery, vice-chairman of the Clarence Bicknell Association, with questions and answers afterwards withSusie and Marcus Bicknell. Palazzo Lanfredini Lungarno Guicciardini, 9 50125 Firenze tel: 055 2677 8270  email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 5 May 2017 at 17h45-19h30.

british school at rome

The British School at Rome screened of The Marvels of Clarence Bicknell in English at a Film screening and workshop on the Victorian botanist, archaeologist and philanthropist. Speakers were Graham Avery (University of Oxford), Raffaella Buzzone (University of Nottingham), Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge) and Robert Hearn (University of Nottingham). Susie and Marcus Bicknell (chairman) participated in the questions and answers. British School at Rome via Antonio Gramsci 61, 00197 Roma. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  T +39 06 3264939

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