For the sake of completeness I have scanned and uploaded the paper I presented in 1998 at the Musée des Merveille in Tenda. It is in French and entitled "Clarence Bicknell, L'Homme". The Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri then published it in full in 2003 in their research revue Rivista Inguana e Intemelia LIV-LV 1999-2000 from which I have taken these scans.
Christopher Chippindale, Reader in Archaeology at Cambridge University, and specialist in rock art and Stonehenge, studied and wrote on Clarence intensively from the early 1980s through the 2010s. This month he reviews for Antiquity, archaeology's foremost journal, Valerie Lester’s MARVELS, The Life of Clarence Bicknell. Christopher writes
- "The book shows how valuable biographies of individual archaeologists are – even though Bicknell is so obscure...
- "Lester's biography of Clarence is finely and artfully written - artfully in the good sense as it is not obvious that in its flowing narrative that spources for the life our fragmentary, and so for many aspect are slight or absent - fully and well illustrated, handsomely deisgned and published at quite a low price.
- "It is full of insights and anecdotes about his energy and his several idealisms."
Download the article here.
The version we have is only a draft but we will put a definitive one up when it's available, with thanks to Antiquity. You can read more about the journal at https://antiquity.ac.uk/ and subscribe at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquity/subscribe
Chippindale, C. (2019). Alpine rock art: Then and now, and into the future? Antiquity, 93 (371), 1378-1380. doi:10.15184/aqy.2019.46
I came across this interview for the first time today even thought it came out last year. It is quite a useful record of Clarence's notoriety in the UK.
“Here is someone with great talent totally ignored because he didn’t live in Britain or seek publicity but just created art for the pleasure of doing it.” Artist, botanist, archaeologist, humanitarian, Esperanto enthusiast, Clarence Bicknell remains another story of Victorian genius needing to be told. This is certainly the view of Marcus Bicknell, the great-grand nephew of Clarence who has been devoted to uncovering the mysteries of his ancestor since 2012, a view more recently shared by the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge who have included a selection of his art in their upcoming collection Floral Fantasies [poster, right] running from the 5th June to the 9th September 2018. We interviewed Marcus Bicknell, head of the Association Clarence Bicknell to gain a unique perspective on the life of Clarence and why it is important to reflect on his legacy."
The publication TCS stands for The Cambridge Student and the interview was by a fine arts student Blanca Schofield-Legorburo with the help of Alicia Lethbridge
Where did Clarence Bicknell's inheritance money come from? What do we know about his wealthy father Elhanan?
I am pleased to let you know that I have finished the full version of my paper presented in short at The Independent Turner Society evening “Two Turner Collectors who were Friends of Ruskin” on Wednesday, 20 November 2019 in London. The paper examines Elhanan's origins, his business, his relationship with Turner and other artists and the way in which his Herne Hill house became a noted private art gallery. The paper is available now for you to download and peruse, along with some other related documents.
Right: Elhanan Bicknell in about 1840
The full version of my paper:
I have drawn from previously-untapped sources such as; notes by the late Valerie Lester for MARVELS, her biography of Clarence Bicknell; Sidney Bicknell’s hand-written memoirs in the East Sussex Record Office and in the Bicknell family collection; Brian Green’s 2014 paper for the Dulwich Society; Edgar Browne, Phiz and Dickens; Mark Howard’s unpublished, Elhanan Bicknell - Oil Merchant and Shipowner; and previously unavailable 19th century maps of Herne Hill.
The slides I showed on 20th Nov 2019 are available here in pdf:
As my research into Elhanan’s collection continues, details of Elhanan's paintings other than Turner's will be available on our research page. Today, just the Turners are listed:
Here is a link from the Turner in Tottenham site giving a report on the evening including photos of the event and the introductory remarks by Dr Selby Whittingham, Secretary of the Independent Turner Society:
Left: J.M.W. Turner 1775–1851 - The Blue Rigi, Sunrise - Watercolour 1842. Bought by the Tate Gallery at Christie’s 6 June 2006 for £5,832,800
Clarence purchased a painting from his father's collection in the 1863 auction at Christies after Elhanan's death in 1861.
I have been analysing the paintings, espcially those by Turner, collected by Elhanan Bicknell (1788-1861) whale oil millionaire of Herne Hill. I am preparing my paper next Wednesday at the Independent Turner Society talk in London. My source material includes three copies of the Christies catalogue with hand-written notes inside... the price, the buyer, what Elhanan originally paid.
To my surprise I found that Clarence Bicknell, his 13th child, bought one of the 500 works on sale, lot No.90, A view near a Stackyard by Peter De Wint. There are some surprising features to this discovery. Firstly, Clarence was a second year, 20 year old student at Trinity College, Cambridge University in spring 1863; he must have made the effort to travel to London for the auction which spread over several days. Secondly, he spent quite a lot on a relatively hum drum picture, £47.5s.00d. That makes about £16000 or €20,000 euros today. That makes us wonder, thirdly, where he got the money from. Although the art had not been sold up till this day, much of Elhanan's estate (more than 5 times the amound realised for the art) had been through probate and here would have been large sums already flowing to the bank accounts of the happy children.
Now I have to find out who Clarence sold the de Wint to, and where it is now. What? In storage at the IISL? Probably not.
Elhanan's other offspring were at the sale. The amount spent by the frugal Clarence is paltry compared to the £1995 paid by his brother Herman for Lot 122 Palestrina – a Composition at the same sale… that’s £235,000 in 2019 money. Henry Sanford Bicknell, who had married David Roberts's daughter Christine, purchased many expensive artworks. When he died in turn, Christies sold his large collection in 1881. Not all the purchases were success stories... Henry bought Ivy Bridge Mill for 880 guineas and it made less, 800 guineas, in the sale of Henry's estate in 1881. The buyer was, however, his brother Percy (Marcus's great grandfather), the unfortunate who presided over the failure of the whale oil and candle business, to whom Clarence gave money later in life and who died penniless; this painting was sold on to Wm Hollin for 800 guineas, although the date of the sale is not known.
More about Elhanan's collection at
In the National Portrait Gallery in London there is a portrait called “Probably Lucinda Sarah Bicknell (née Browne)” engraved by James R. Mackrell in 1838 after a drawing by Stephen Poyntz Denning in 1833 (image, right). It is their reference NPG D31758 and you can find it online at
However, having compared this image with another of Lucinda and contemporary written desciptions, I do not believe this portrait is Lucinda. It looks neither like the other image we have of her nor does it match the descriptions given of her.
The sitter is Sabrina Bicknell, no relation. There is another portrait of Sabrina which is identical. It is even in the National Portrait Gallery and by the same artist, so I wonder why the NPG experts had never noticed the error. Sabrina Bicknell (1757-1843), better known as Sabrina Sidney, was a British woman abandoned at the Foundling Hospital in London as a baby, and taken in at the age of 12 by author Thomas Day, who tried to mould her into his perfect wife. She grew up to marry one of Day's friends, instead, and eventually became a school manager.
You can read my research and arguments here: click for pdf
My thanks to Amy Adams who alerted me to the protrait of Sabrina.
by Marcus Bicknell, November 2019
great great grandson of Lucinda Bicknell née Browne
• Lucinda Sarah Bicknell (née Browne) (1801-1850), Third wife of Elhanan Bicknell. Sitter associated with 1 portrait.
• Stephen Poyntz Denning (1795-1864), Artist. Artist associated with 8 portraits.
• James R. Mackrell (circa 1814-1866). Artist associated with 1 portrait.
A mystery solved
I have been haunted for 20 years by two nice sketches by Clarence Bicknell of Much Hadham, a quiet village in Hertfordshire, northeast of London and now under the departing flight path of Stansted airport.
One sketch is of the windmill at Much Hadham (right) and the other of The Palace at Much Hadham, the latter titled by Clarence in a hand-styled font, a cross between 12th century medieval and contemporary arts-and-crafts (below). Both are dated 1889; he visited Much Hadham in July of that year.
But we never knew, until today, why Clarence went there.
He had moved to Bordighera ten years earlier, so this trip was not a casual one, not just touristic. He would have had an objective.
Thanks to the keen interest of a present inhabitant of Much Hadham, and a regular follower of Clarence Bicknell’s Facebook page, we have the answer. Much Hadham was the home of Ada Berry née Bicknell (1831-1911), Clarence's favorite sibling, 11 years his elder. He visited her in London and Kent throughout his life.
Our Much Hadham source also made the link with Ada’s son Grosvenor Berry who lived and farmed there for there for 65 years.
You can read the whole article and see photos of Grosvenor Bicknell and Much Hadham... download the ten page pdf here
With thanks to our source of information in Much Hadham who choses to remain under the radar.
By Marcus Bicknell, November 2019. Copyright © 2019 Marcus Bicknell
We are pleased to make available here the excellent article The Turner Collector: Elhanan Bicknell written in 1987 by Peter Bicknell with Helen Guiterman
This text transcript of the original article of 1987 was made by Marcus Bicknell in October 2019 from an original copy of the magazine Turner Studies (his Art & Epoch 1775-1851) - Summer 1987 Vol.7 No 1. We thank the magazine, and the editor of Turner Studies (the late Eric Shanes) and the Tate Gallery for their diligence in publishing this and many other important papers. Marcus Bicknell did this work as part of his own research into the art collection of his great great grandfather Elhanan Bicknell (image, right); the results of the research will be available on www.clarencebicknell.com when published.
Peter Bicknell (1907-1995) was an architect, mountaineer, teacher of architecture and art history, writer and exhibition presenter and a Fellow of Jesus College Cambridge. He bequeathed to Marcus Bicknell the collection of Clarence Bicknell vellum-bound albums of watercolours, sketchbooks and other ephemera. Peter's expertise in art history, especially Turner, makes this article a very good starting point for understanding the wealth of the art collection which Clarence's father had amassed.
The illustrations can be seen in the pdf reproduction of the article at https://www.clarencebicknell.com/images/downloads_news/turner_studies_peter_bicknell_1987.pdf
This text transcript is available for download from
A preview of Marcus Bicknell's research into Elhanan's collection work will be the subject of a presentation to the Independent Turner Society, chairman Selby Whittingham, in November 2019 in London...
- Two Turner Collectors, Friends of Ruskin
- Saint Cuthbert's Church, Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, London SW5 9EB
- Wed, 20 November 2019 at 18:30
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 Buscaglia, 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."
Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) dans les Alpes Maritimes : Entre Paysage et Botanique
Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) in the Alpes Maritimes : The mountain landscape and extraordinary botany
By Raffaella Bruzzone, Robert Hearn, Pietro Piana
Download the paper in pdf here (link missing at 30 September... please check later)
We are pleased to be able to publish here an interesting paper from three of Clarence Bicknell's admirers; Raffaella Bruzzone, Robert Hearn, Pietro Piana have all researched Clarence's role in Liguria and the maritime alps, they have visited and inspected the albums and original material in the Bicknell Family Collection in the UK and have become good friends of the Bicknell family.
"This paper is about the figure and the scientific and artistic production of Clarence Bicknell, a British amateur botanist and archaeologist who lived between the Ligurian riviera and the Maritime alps for most of his life. Thanks to his works concerning botany and landscape (held between Italy and the UK) we can investigate into the historical geography and the landscape history of the area.
"Keywords: Clarence Bicknell, geohistory, riviera, Maritime alps, botany, topographical art"
This paper was completed between 2017 and 2019 and is published in French. It was presented in an early form at the 12th October 2016 conference in Toulouse on Environmental Geo-history and Landscapes, a report of which, Géohistoire de l'Environnement et des Paysages by Philippe Valette and Jean-Michel Carozza is available at https://www.cnrseditions.fr/catalogue/geographie-territoires/geohistoire-de-l-environnement-et-des-paysages/
(Les préoccupations environnementales et paysagères se positionnent au cœur des questions sociétales actuelles. Focalisés sur les futurs possibles et la prospective, de nombreux travaux scientifiques sous-estiment l’enracinement de ces problématiques dans le temps long des dynamiques sociales et naturelles.)
Robert Hearn is a researcher and university lecturer specialising in Environmental History. Upon completion of his PhD, h held a two-year position as the Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Fellow at the Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy. Since August 2016, he has been an Assistant Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography at the University of Nottingham, UK. Robert Hearn’s CV is at https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/geography/people/robert.hearn
Pietro Piana is Research Assistant at the School of Geography, University of Nottingham. He is currently working on a Leverhulme Project on British Amateur Topographical Art and Landscape in NW Italy, 1835-1915. He is co-author of Travelling in Italy during Turner’s Lifetime https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/ross-balzaretti-pietro-piana-and-charles-watkins-travelling-in-italy-during-turners-r1176438. Pietro Piana’s CV is at
Copyright 2019 Raffaella Bruzzone, Robert Hearn, Pietro Piana
Having completed the six years' work culminating in the Clarence Bicknell 2018 centenary I have turned my attention to his father. Elhanan Bicknell's art collection is the stuff of legend and huge value ... Clarence's one thirteenth share was enough to see him in funds for life.
I start from a brilliant summary of Elhanan Bicknell and the great artist he sponsored, J.W.T.Turner by Peter Bicknell my uncle in 1987. The article is in Turner Studies from the Tate Gallery, Vol.7 No.1. Copies can be had on eBay and Amazon from time to time, but if you would like to read it please click on the link below.
A preview of my work will be the subject of a presentation to the Independent Turner Society, chairman Selby Whittingham, in November 2019 in London...
- Two Turner Collectors, Friends of Ruskin
- Saint Cuthbert's Church, Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, London SW5 9EB
- Wed, 20 November 2019 at 18:30
We were delighted that Charlotte Tancin, Librarian at the Hunt Institute in Pittsburgh, reviewed MARVELS and alerted us to its publication in their review Huntia.
The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, a research division of Carnegie Mellon University, specializes in the history of botany and all aspects of plant science and serves the international scientific community through research and documentation. To this end, the Institute acquires and maintains authoritative collections of books, plant images, manuscripts, portraits and data files, and provides publications and other modes of information service. The Institute meets the reference needs of botanists, biologists, historians, conservationists, librarians, bibliographers and the public at large, especially those concerned with any aspect of the North American flora.
Lester, Valerie. Marvels: The Life of Clarence Bicknell, Botanist, Archaeologist, Artist. Leicester: Matador, 2018. ix, 245,  p., port., maps, ill. (mostly color). £25.00. ISBN 978-1-7890-1494-5 (hardback).
Here at Hunt Institute we primarily know of Clarence Bicknell (1842–1918) as a botanist who wrote about the flora around the Maritime Alps and the Italian Riviera coast and as a botanical artist. In this biography by Valerie Lester we have a fuller picture of him as also being an Anglican clergyman, archaeologist, Esperantist and a socially engaged British expatriate who lived for 40 years in Bordighera, a vacation spot and Italian home to a number of Britons and Europeans.
Botanically, Bicknell was an enthusiastic explorer, cataloger, classifier and artist. By 1884 he had made more than 1,000 watercolor drawings of local wildflowers from the Riviera and the Maritime Alps. His publications from this period include Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Riviera and Neighbouring Mountains (1885) and Flora of Bordighera and San Remo (1896). He was a highly skilled amateur in the best sense of that term. He became friends with Swiss botanist Emile Burnat (1828–1920) in the mid-1880s, and they corresponded for 31 years, also visiting each other and sharing knowledge and specimens, and “bonded in personality, interests, and collections” (p. 83). Bicknell contributed hundreds of specimens to Burnat’s herbarium — now at Geneva along with their correspondence — and many descriptions to Burnat’s Flore des Alpes Maritimes (1892–1931), co-written with John Briquet (1870–1931) and François Cavillier (1868–1953).
Bicknell discovered several new plant species, including two later named for him: Pimpinella bicknellii Briquet and Euphrasia bicknellii Wettstein. He also became friends with Florentine botanist Stefano Sommier (1848–1922), who was writing a book on the wildflowers of the Tuscan archipelago. He and Bicknell exchanged plant lists and specimens and remained in correspondence. Another connection was H. Stuart Thompson (1870–1940), whose Flowering Plants of the Riviera (1914) contains 112 Bicknell watercolors. Beyond these botanical friendships he had numerous others, maintaining a vigorous correspondence and plant exchange throughout his life.
His other scientific focus was ancient rock carvings. in 1881 Bicknell found petroglyphs in Vallée des Merveilles / Valle delle Meraviglie, and beginning in 1885 he located, copied and cataloged more than 10,000 stone carvings. He published several works on them, including Guide to the Prehistoric Rock Engravings of the Italian Maritime Alps (1913). He had a summer retreat built in Casterino from which to sojourn on botanizing and petroglyph-hunting trips. At a 1905 congress on archaeology in Monaco, Bicknell made another new friend, Émile Cartailhac (1845–1921), who was exploring for petroglyphs in caves. the two corresponded intensively and traveled together to Ariège and the Pyrenees to look for petroglyphs.
Beyond Bicknell’s scientific interests, this biography lays out his whole life story, giving greater context and a colorful view of a full life. He was an active part of the expatriate community in Bordighera and to some extent also of the local community. in the mid-1880s he commissioned a new building for his herbarium, library and paintings and for a community center, and the displays and events were open to all.
In 1887 and 1908 two catastrophic earthquakes hit this area of Italy. Bordighera escaped severe damage, but Bicknell aided others by taking provisions to villages by mulecart. His philanthropy included working with Father Giacomo Viale (1830–1912) to create St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged Poor in 1912 and working with the Red Cross during World War I, visiting the sick and turning his museum over to convalescing soldiers. Throughout his life in Italy, Bicknell was helped in his domestic, travel-related and research activities by Giacomo Pollini and his son Luigi, assistants who became dear friends, and several other loyal assistants.
Other interests also filled his life. Intrigued by the idea of a universal language as a possible key to world peace, from 1897 Bicknell developed an active interest in Esperanto and attended congresses including one in Boulogne in 1905. Also around that time, Bicknell explored making creative plant drawings in less portraitist and more Arts and Crafts-inspired styles, producing albums of brilliant and inventive artworks; seven of these are now at the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge.
Bicknell died suddenly on 17 July, 1918 while resting on a balcony in full view of the mountains he loved. Lester’s engaging tribute to him includes notes, bibliography and index.
— Charlotte Tancin, Librarian
You can look at the complete edition of Huntia at http://www.huntbotanical.org/publications/show.php?197
Here is the pdf of the book reviews in this edition: book reviews
Writers since the death of Clarence Bicknell in 1918, including my uncle Peter Bicknell from who I inherited the Bicknell Collection, persist in saying that Clarence Bicknell travelled to Australia and New Zealand. I remind all students of the man that there is NO EVIDENCE THAT HE WENT and much evidence that he never had a period of time in which to do so.
As a member of the research team under the late Valerie Lester for her MARVELS: The Life of Clarence Bicknell (2018) I compiled an extensive list of the dates and places recorded in Clarence's letters, diaries, sketchbooks and water colours. This list of over 2,300 entries is an Excel spreadsheet available to researchers on request. The only period when he could possibly have gone (in his whole life) was in the second half of 1879 when "he dropped out of sight".
My list of dates and places records a sketch by Clarence in his sketchbook CL111 in Bussage (near Stroud in the UK, where he sometimes visited) dated 27th June 1879. On 21st September 1879 he is apparently in Broadlands, the religious think-tank retreat, according to a letter from Clarence to Mrs Cowper Temple, the Broadlands organiser. However, the date on this letter is only a pencilled date, a hand other than Clarence's notes Valerie. Maybe this date is wrong. Then there is nothing until 22 December 1879, a sketch of a monastery near Nice in our sktechbook CL116 by Clarence. If indeed there are 6 months empty (not two periods of three months), could he have got to Australia and New Zealand and back?
No. The clipper ships bound for Australia and New Zealand would call at a variety of ports. A ship sailing from Plymouth to Sydney, for example, would cover around 13,750 miles (22,130 km); a fast time for this passage would be around 100 days (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clipper_route). Other web sources say the quickest at the end of the 19th century would be three months. If Clarence hitched a lift on one of the remaining boats of his late father's fleet (Clarence's brother Percy had stepped into their father's shoes at Langton & Bicknell, the whale oil business suffering from the adoption of gas then electricity for town lighting, and did not liquidate it till 1907) it would have taken nearly four months each way. So are we to believe that Clarence travelled all that way and came straight back again? No, he would not have done that because his main interest was not the travel but the botany and the sights when he got to the destination.
For the record, here are the mentions of Australia and New Zealand in MARVELS, the mentions which are tangentuial to Clarence's own story but which have been misinterpreted...
- MARVELS p.7... When Elhanan started work with John Langton, whaling was at its height and the Pacific trade was opening up. Though the range of the sperm whale was world-wide, the hunting grounds off the east coast of Australia and around New Zealand were particularly abundant, and that is where Langton and Bicknell concentrated their efforts.
- MARVELS p.8... Lucinda passed on to Clarence a passion for drawing wildflowers, playing the piano and singing. She may also have kindled in him an interest in foreign travel by reading aloud from the letters of her six brothers and one sister who variously travelled as far as the West Indies, Latvia, India, Australia, New Zealand and Mauritius.
- MARVELS p.74... Clarence also planted two Moreton Bay figs (Ficus macrophylla), descended from the first specimen brought to Italy from Australia by Lord Howe
- MARVELS p.154... Clarence and Bingham had much to talk about – the botany of the area, the rock carvings, and the local ants, for this was the same Bingham Crowther who had probably provided Clarence with the specimens of the Australian ant named for him: Iridomyrmex bicknelli. Clarence gave specimens of this ant and others to his friend Oreste Mattirolo (1856–1947), Professor of Botany and Director of the Botanical Garden at Bologna from 1894 to 1900, who in turn handed them on to Carlo Emery (1848–1925), Professor of Zoology at the University of Bologna, who wrote up the ant and named it after Clarence in gratitude for the gift.
Here are two further mentions of the putative destinations with Valerie's conclusions, supported by my work, that Clarence did not make a truip to Australia and New Zealand.
- MARVELS p.51... Dreaming of buying the Villa Rosa from the Fanshawes, Clarence returned to the Italian Riviera sometime in the autumn of 1879, after many months of spiritual reflection during which he dropped out of sight. It is tempting to believe that he might have travelled to New Zealand during that time, but a New Zealand trip is hearsay and impossible to nail down (See Chapter 16), and there are simply not enough uninterrupted months to allow for such a long trip in 1879. Nor do we have any sketchbooks or diaries to use as conclusive evidence for such a trip at any point.
- MARVELS p.186... Ceylon is known for its gems, especially rubies and sapphires – Farrer goes on for pages about them – and Mrs Ferguson would have helped Clarence pick out a truly gorgeous necklace. He owed it to Mercede for having taken her husband away for ten weeks. It seems likely that the Fergusons sealed their friendship with Clarence by giving him the Maori jade pendants of which he was so fond. As the Fergusons had travelled to New Zealand on leave from Ceylon,282 a gift of jade pendants to rockmad Clarence seems quite natural. Margaret Berry, who inherited them, attached a note to the pendants saying that he acquired them in Ceylon; but if Margaret were mistaken about their provenance, they become a shred of evidence to justify Peter Bicknell’s mention – often repeated by others without evidence – that Clarence himself had travelled to New Zealand. However, the team researching this biography has for years been scouring ships’ records and botanical records in New Zealand for mention of his name but have yielded nothing, nor did Clarence ever refer to such a journey.
I have also noted some other reference to "Bicknell" in Australia or New Zealand. These might have caused confusion for some amateurs, but they are clearly people other than Clarence Bicknell 1842-1918.
- Clarence Ralph Bicknell of Birkenhead, New Zealand, died 15 September 1916 in the trenches in Europe. WW1 Lance Corporal/Military AWMM
New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 2nd Battalion AWMM. Several web references.
- Clarence travelled to Egypt in 1889 on a boat bound eventually for Australia. He disembarked at Alexandria. MARVELS chapter 8
- Arthur C. Bicknell wrote the book Travel and adventure in Northern Queensland, published in London by Longmans, Green in 1895. https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/40243214 and elsewhere. The subject matter would have appealed to our Clarence ... "Method of tree-climbing with aid of kamin; Nollanolla described; p.58; Collection &? preparation of ants eggs &? beetles as food; p.95; Contact with natives on Gilbert R., notes on scarification, fire-making; General remarks on lack of clothing, role of women, diseases &? cures; method of cooking; burial customs in detail cremation in some areas; fear of spirits; cannibalism practised; duties of women outlined Mitchell R. area; Gilbert R. - huts described, smoking, songs, basketry, medicine men, fishing &? weapons; Prince of Wales Is. - scarification of bodies, exhibition of spearthrowing."
- Most recently, in 2018, it was reported that another Australian plant was found by Claudio Littardi in the garden of the Museo Bicknell. I quoted above from MARVELS "Clarence also planted two Moreton Bay figs (Ficus macrophylla), descended from the first specimen brought to Italy from Australia by Lord Howe." Now we read "The mysterious tree in the garden of the Bicknell museum in Bordighera: discovered a rare example of Apollonia barbujana. It is an endemic tree of the flora of Macaronesia, known as the ebony of the Canaries and widespread in the islands of the archipelago, with the exclusion of Lanzarote. The tree, whose age is estimated in over a hundred years, has remained hidden in the garden in the discreet company of the gigantic Ficus macrophylla (Australia), in close contact with a Lagunaria patersonia (Australia) and near a Casuarina equietifolia (New Zealand) and a contorted Australian Malaleuca". http://www.italyrivieralps.com/2018/10/11/read-more/argomenti/places-of-interest/articolo/the-mysterious-tree-in-the-garden-of-the-bicknell-museum-in-bordighera-discovered-a-rare-example-of.html
I would urge researchers, especially those with new material like the Museo Bicknell's unpublished "Lotto 2017" collection of Clarence's diaries, letters and sketches, to make them available or to analyse them for details of the Australia/New Zealand trip. Otherwise, there is NO EVIDENCE Clarence went to Australia or New Zealand and such remarks should be taken out of displays and literature.
La mostra "Clarence Bicknell e la preistoria nel Finale" va dal 13 aprile al 3 novembre 2019. Leggi di più in inglese qui sotto.
The exhibition "Clarence Bicknell - rediscovering prehistory in Finale" runs from 13 April to 3 November 2019. Read about it in English below.
Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) nella sua instancabile e poliedrica atti vità, prevalentemente di botanico e studioso di preistoria, si interessò del Finalese ed ebbe modo di soggiornarvi più volte negli anni '80 e '90 dell'Ottocento. Fu durante tali visite che ebbe modo di vedere le incisioni rupestri nell’area di Orco Feglino e di segnalarle all’amico geologo e paletnologo Arturo Issel. Proprio al rapporto tra questi due ricercatori si deve probabilmente la formazione della collezione di reperti preistorici del Finalese realizzata da Bicknell, allestita originariamente a Bordighera presso il suo museo.
La sua presenza nel territorio, in parti colare a Finalmarina, in Val Ponci e a Orco Feglino, è ricostruibile att raverso diversi documenti conservati sia nell'archivio dell'Isti tuto Internazionale di Studi Liguri a Bordighera, sia nei materiali di proprietà dei discendenti. Oltre ad alcune foto si segnalano alcuni acquerelli da lui realizzati con grande abilità nel 1880 a Finalmarina, che riproducono scorci dell'abitato, tra cui si riconoscono chiaramente parti colari della Fortezza di Castelfranco.
L’esposizione presso il Museo Archeologico del Finale (13 aprile-3 novembre 2019) presenterà - per la prima volta - diversi documenti, immagini e alcuni reperti archeologici, provenienti dalla Caverna delle Fate e dalla Grott a Pollera, della collezione Bicknell, dopo che la stessa, nel 1947, venne scorporata e parzialmente trasferita dalla sede centrale dell’Isti tuto Internazionale di Studi Liguri a Bordighera all’allora Civico Museo del Finale (oggi Museo Archeologico del Finale). Tali materiali vennero esposti in una sala inti tolata allo stesso Bicknell, insieme ad altri reperti preistorici provenienti da scavi ottocenteschi di Arturo Issel e Padre Giovanni Batti sta Amerano. La Sala Bicknell del Museo di Finale venne però presto smantellata, nei primi anni ‘50 del Novecento, per lasciare spazio ad un nuovo allesti mento dedicato agli scavi della missione archeologica italo-spagnola alla Caverna dei Pipistrelli allora appena conclusa. Da quel momento i reperti della Collezione Bicknell non sono mai più stati esposti al pubblico. La mostra sarà quindi l’occasione per ammirare crani d’orso delle caverne e altri resti faunisti ci, oltre a ceramiche del Neolitico, che Bicknell volle nella sua collezione per documentare la Preistoria del Finale.
Nel percorso espositivo, oltre ad aspetti biografi ci su Clarence Bicknell, saranno approfonditi diversi temi, tra i quali il suo interesse per le incisioni rupestri di Orco Feglino. Il Finalese fu una delle prime aree in Europa dove vennero scoperte incisioni preistoriche. Lo dimostra una lettera del 1898 inviata da Bicknell a Issel, massima autorità nella seconda metà dell’Ottocento per le ricerche preistoriche in Liguria, nella quale vengono segnalate le incisioni del Ciappo de Cunche.
Tra i diversi interessi colti vati da Bicknell ricopre un ruolo non secondario quello rivolto alla Botanica, in parti colare alla Floristi ca, che sviluppò sopratt utt o a parti re dagli anni Ottanta dell’Ott ocento. Nel corso delle sue esplorazioni in tutt a la Riviera ligure di Ponente e nella Costa Azzurra raccolse decine di migliaia di piante che determinò e conservò in forma di exsiccata componendo un grande Erbario Europeo formato da 247 pacchi, oggi custodito presso l’Università di Genova. Un secondo erbario, di minori dimensioni, riguarda invece la flora di Bordighera e di Sanremo, composto da oltre 16mila fogli ordinati in 52 pacchi, che sono conservati presso il Museo Bicknell di Bordighera. Da studioso estremamente scrupoloso applicò con la massima cura su tutti i fogli d’erbario i relati vi cartellini con nome della specie, luogo, data di raccolta e quota alti metrica: notizie che documentano con precisione la diffusione di oltre 2000 enti tà della flora vascolare sul territorio.
I visitatori della mostra allestita al Museo Archeologico del Finale, presentando il relati vo biglietto, avranno diritt o all’ingresso ridott o presso l’esposizione “Clarence Bicknell in the past for the future. Inter-relazioni” a Bordighera (IM), allesti ta nel presti gioso salone Mariani del Centro Nino Lamboglia e nel Museo fondato nel 1888 a Bordighera dallo stesso Bicknell. Viceversa, chi visiterà la sede espositi va di Bordighera riceverà, presentando il relativo biglietto, una riduzione sull’ingresso al Museo Archeologico del Finale e alla mostra “Clarence Bicknell e la Preistoria nel Finale: una riscoperta”.
Mostra a cura di: Daniele Arobba, Direttore del Museo Archeologico del Finale - Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri Andrea De Pascale, Conservatore del Museo Archeologico del Finale - Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri Daniela Gandolfi, Dirigente Archeologa - Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri.
Museo Archeologico del Finale, Chiostri di Santa Caterina, 17024 Finale Ligure SV, Italy
Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) in his tireless and multifaceted activity, mainly of botanist and prehistoric scholar, became interested in the Finale area and was able to stay there several times in the 1980s and 1990s. It was during these visits that he was able to see the rock engravings in the area of Orco Feglino and to report them to his geologist and palethnologist friend Arturo Issel. It is probably to the relationship between these two researchers that Bicknell's collection of prehistoric finds from Finale was probably created, originally set up in Bordighera at his museum.
Its presence in the territory, in particular in Finalmarina, in Val Ponci and in Orco Feglino, can be reconstructed through various documents preserved both in the archive of the International Institute of Ligurian Studies in Bordighera, and in the materials owned by the descendants. In addition to some photos there are some watercolors he made with great skill in Finalmarina in 1880, which reproduce glimpses of the inhabited area, among which we can clearly recognize some parts of the Castelfranco Fortress.
The exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Finale (13 April-3 November 2019) will present - for the first time - various documents, images and some archaeological finds, from the Caverna delle Fate and from the Grott in Pollera, of the Bicknell collection, after which the same, in 1947, was spun off and partially transferred from the headquarters of the International Institute of Ligurian Studies in Bordighera to the then Civic Museum of the Finale (now the Archaeological Museum of the Finale). These materials were exhibited in a room enclosed by Bicknell himself, along with other prehistoric finds from the nineteenth-century excavations of Arturo Issel and Father Giovanni Batti is Amerano. The Bicknell Room of the Finale Museum, however, was soon dismantled, in the early 1950s, to make room for a new layout dedicated to the excavations of the Italo-Spanish archaeological mission to the Bats Cave which had just ended. Since that time the finds of the Bicknell Collection have never been exposed to the public again. The exhibition will therefore be the occasion to admire cave bear skulls and other faunist remains there, as well as Neolithic ceramics, which Bicknell wanted in his collection to document the Prehistory of the Final.
In the exhibition, in addition to biographical aspects of Clarence Bicknell, various themes will be explored, including his interest in Orco Feglino's rock engravings. The Finale was one of the first areas in Europe where prehistoric engravings were discovered. This is demonstrated by a letter dated 1898 sent by Bicknell to Issel, the highest authority in the second half of the nineteenth century for prehistoric research in Liguria, in which the engravings by Ciappo de Cunche are reported.
Among the various interests cultivated by Bicknell is a role that is not secondary to that addressed to Botany, in particular to the Floristas, which developed above all since the 1980s in the October period. During his explorations throughout the Ligurian Riviera di Ponente and on the Côte d'Azur he collected tens of thousands of plants which he determined and preserved in the form of exsiccata by composing a large European Herbarium consisting of 247 packages, now kept at the University of Genoa. A second herbarium, of smaller dimensions, concerns the flora of Bordighera and Sanremo, composed of over 16 thousand sheets ordered in 52 packages, which are kept at the Bicknell Museum in Bordighera. From an extremely scrupulous scholar, he applied with the utmost care on all the herbarium sheets the related cards with the name of the species, place, date of collection and high altitude metric: news that accurately document the spread of over 2000 entities of the vascular flora on the territory.
Visitors to the exhibition set up at the Archaeological Museum of the Finale, presenting their ticket, will be given either at the entrance reduced or at the “Clarence Bicknell in the past for the future. Inter-relations ”in Bordighera (IM), set up in the prestigious Mariani salon of the Centro Nino Lamboglia and in the Museum founded in 1888 in Bordighera by Bicknell himself. Vice versa, those who visit the exhibition center of Bordighera will receive, by presenting their ticket, a reduction on the entrance to the Archaeological Museum of the Finale and to the exhibition "Clarence Bicknell and the Prehistory in the Final: a rediscovery".
Exhibition curated by: Daniele Arobba, Director of the Archaeological Museum of Finale - International Institute of Ligurian Studies Andrea De Pascale, Conservator of the Archaeological Museum of the Finale - International Institute of Ligurian Studies Daniela Gandolfi, Archaeologist Manager - International Institute of Ligurian Studies.
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!
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.
Marcus Bicknell, 14th June 2019
It 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.