Gallery – botanical works

Clarence Bicknell moved to Italy in 1878. Though disenchanted with the church, Clarence had become enchanted by Bordighera, soon buying the Villa Rosa from Mrs. Fanshawe Walker and making it his home for the rest of his life. The richness of the flora of Bordighera and its neighbourhood was for him one of its main attractions. In them he found a wonderful source of inspiration. He immediately set about collecting the plants and recording them in explicit and attractive watercolour drawings.

“He roamed over the hills seeking rare flowers, but noticing everything – small insects, birds, stones, light and cloud effects, and talking in his gay and eager way to everyone he met… His lively conversation, full of sparkling wit and humour and the wonderful letters that he used to write, illustrated with pen and ink sketches, are precious memories to those who were privileged to call themselves his friends… He was greatly loved by the Italian population… who recognised in him an unfailing helper and adviser in all their needs material and moral. The familiar figure, in loose flannels, with open collar … with an immense grey felt hat on his head, was always welcome… Intensely affectionate and emotional, he was inclined to violent prejudices, from which he could not always easily free himself and the haste with which he threw himself into new intimacies was a standing joke amongst his old friends.”

By 1884 he had made over a thousand of these drawings, 104 of which he selected as illustrations for his Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Riviera and Neighbouring Mountains, published in 1885. For these lithographic plates the original drawings were all redrawn. They show his highly developed sense of design combined with skill in producing accurate and informative botanical images. Eventually 3,349 of his botanical drawings were deposited in the Botanical Institute of Genoa University. He also created a remarkable herbarium of dried specimens which is also at Genoa.

These rigorously correct botnical drawings underpinned the evolution of Bicknell’s art culminating with the arts and crafts style and the late Victorian wit and whimsy of the vellum-bound albums which are displayed at under >Artist.

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