If you don’t recognize the name Florence Broadhurst, there’s no doubt you would know her if you saw her. Or at least – you’d know her work if you saw it. Not necessarily consciously, because her designs are often lurking in the background, but you’d definitely recognize her classic geometric, animal and floral patterned fabrics and wallpapers which remain in fashion, season after season. Florence was a larger-than-life designer – but even more bold than her designs was her life – and murder.
Florence was born on a cattle station in outback Queensland, Australia, in 1899. A born artist, Florence danced and performed with local groups and shows before traveling to Shanghai in the 1920s where she performed as a chanteuse and a dancer, and established the Broadhurst Academy which offered, amongst other things, tuition in dancing, music and journalism.
She moved back to Australia in 1927, married and became a mother, moved to England, separated from her husband and by the time the war broke out, she’d met a new man and was doing her bit for the war effort by joining the Australian Women’s Voluntary Services, who offered hospitality for Australian soldiers abroad. Then in 1949 she packed up the family and came back to Australia where she announced that she was a landscape painter.
She traveled the country painting landscapes, which were first shown as “Paintings of Australia” in 1954 at David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney. She was a foundation member of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales and a member of the Society of Interior Designers of Australia, was a teacher of printmaking and sculpture at the National Art School and was also involved in a variety of charitable activities.
With an eye for color and a passion for design, in the late 1950s Florence began to draw on her globe-trotting memories – peacocks – butterflies, bamboo, filigree, floral – to create Australian (Hand Printed) Wallpapers. Florence’s personal flair (she was known for her bouffant of red hair and flamboyant dress sense) and self-promotional skills soon saw her infiltrate Sydney’s social set and build an impressive clientele – by the time of her death in 1977, Florence was a both a well-known socialite and a very wealthy woman.
Her tragic death was as colorful as her life – she was murdered in her home in 1977 (a crime which to this day remains unsolved). Many theories have been thrown around about her death – perhaps at the hands of one of the young men who kept her company in her later years, or an early victim of the ‘Granny Killer’, a serial killer who terrorized Sydney in the 1980s. One thing is for certain – the lack of details surrounding her death have left only served to created even more intrigue about the secret life of Florence.
Today, her range of wallpapers, fabrics, lifestyle pieces and hanging art are more popular than ever. From eBay to Esty and casual to catwalk, Florence’s design are as current as they ever were. Visit Signature Prints for more information.
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