A LECTURE at Evesham Arts Centre on one of the most celebrated Edwardian painters will bring to mind a remarkable period in history, for the scenic Cotswolds village of Broadway.

The Florence-born John Singer Sargent was part of the rather bohemian "Broadway Group", who were mainly American artists, all living at working at Broadway near the close of the nineteenth century.

Among them were the painters Francis Millet and Edwin Abby, and writers including Henry James and Edmund Gosse.

An artistic community, in fact, settled around "the monastic ruin" known as Abbots Grange.

Gosse described Abbots Grange as "a mediaeval ruin, a small ecclesiastical edifice, which was very roughly repaired so as to make a kind of refuge for us, and there, in the morning, Henry James and I would write, while Abbey and Millet painted on the floor below, and Sargent and Parsons tilted their easels just outside".

Gosse said: "We were all within shouting distance, and not much serious work was done, for we were in towering spirits and everything was food for laughter. Henry James was the only sedate one of all - benign, indulgent but grave, and not often unbending beyond a genial chuckle."

At Broadway, Sargent was to paint what is perhaps his most famous painting, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

The Tate Gallery, in an online article, gives the background for this work, which was completed in 1886: "The inspiration for this picture came during a boating expedition Sargent took on the Thames at Pangbourne in September 1885, with the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey, during which he saw Chinese lanterns hanging among trees and lilies.

"He began the picture while staying at the home of the painter F.D. Millet at Broadway, Worcestershire, shortly after his move to Britain from Paris. At first he used the Millets's five-year-old daughter Katharine as his model, but she was soon replaced by Polly and Dorothy Barnard, the daughters of the illustrator Frederick Barnard, because they had the exact hair colour Sargent was seeking. Dolly, aged eleven, is on the left; Polly, aged seven, is on the right."

The painting shows the girls with Chinese lanterns and surrounded by flowers, as twilight falls.

At the time of Sargent, Broadway - now a favourite spot for Japanese tourists - was remote from any railway line and was hard to get to: an ideal location for artists seeking peace and quiet in a rural setting.

The talk "Fizz and Crackle" will be by the art tutor, Mary Alexander, at the Evesham Arts Centre on Wednesday, February 8, from 8pm.

Tickets will be available on the door. Further details on, 01386 48883.