John Singer Sargent and Broadway
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was the most celebrated portrait painter of the Edwardian age. Although born in Florence, Italy, to expatriate American parents, Sargent has a number of links with Broadway and the Cotswolds.
Sargent’s talent was noticed and nurtured by Carolus-Duran who introduced him to the Parisian art scene. Sargent fled Paris in early 1885, after exhibiting Madame X, his sensual portrait of Mme Gautreau, a noted society beauty, which caused a great scandal.
Sargent travelled to England and paid his first visit to Broadway in the late summer of 1885 to recuperate from a bad head wound he had received whilst diving from a weir near Pangbourne. Sargent had been invited to Broadway by fellow American painter Edwin Austin Abbey. Whilst in Broadway, Sargent became a member of the American colony of artists, the ‘Broadway Colony’, who were living in the village at the time. Sargent socialised with fellow Americans artists and writers including Francis Davis Millet and it is in the gardens of Farnham House and Russell House on the village green where Millet was living at the time that Sargent painted Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose the title lifted from the light-hearted lyrics of a popular song. The painting is a true example of Impressionist en plein air painting. It took numerous sunsets to complete and even during its conception provoked much discussion, amusement, involvement and encouragement from his circle of friends, the ‘Broadway Colony’.
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose was purchased for the nation and now hangs in the Tate in London. In his lifetime Sargent was elected a full member of the Royal Academy in 1897 and he painted over 500 portraits and more than 1000 landscapes along with celebrated murals at the Boston Public Library, the Museum of Fine Art and the Widener Memorial at Harvard.
The biennial Broadway Arts Festival celebrates Broadway’s artistic heritage. The 2018 Festival will take place in the village from 8th to 17th June 2018.