Born in 1899 in Mungy Station in Mount Perry, Queensland, Florence was a born artist. She became a singer, joined local talent groups and went on to tour in South East Asia and China in the early 1920s. In 1926 Florence established the Broadhurst Academy in Shanghai where she tutored students in music and dance. Florence returned to Queensland in July 1927 and then a few months later moved to England.
Two years later Florence married an English stockbroker, however their marriage didn’t last and after separating, she became involved with a diesel engineer who became the father of her son.
Whilst living in Surry, UK during World War II, Florence volunteered for the Australian Women’s Voluntary Services, offering hospitality to Australian soldiers.
The family moved back to Australia in 1949 and Florence travelled extensively; showcasing her 114 landscape paintings in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. In 1962 her second marriage dissolved when he left her for a woman much younger than their own son.
It was in 1959 that Broadhurst founded Australian (Hand Printed) Wallpapers Pty Ltd, which later became Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd. Her designs were all hand-painted until technical advances allowed her to print and produce in large quantities. It is reported that by 1972 there were around 800 designs, in 80 different colours, of her wallpaper. Florence’s designs continued to grow in recognition and desire and by the 1970s she dominated the Australian market with quality products and was exporting worldwide.
Her work was said to be vivid combinations of colour, with bold geometrical, striped and floral designs; psychedelic pop art, oriental shapes and romantic florals. She found inspiration from the kaleidoscope of cultures she travelled through and was a pioneer in her craft.
After Florence’s death, her silk-printing screens and film positives were sold to Wilson Fabrics and Wallcoverings; however the decline in the use of wallpaper in the 1980s saw her collection languish. Her work was later sold to its current owner, Signature Prints Pty Ltd. It is thanks to this company that Australia saw the resurgence of the Broadhurst range both in wallpaper and textiles. High end fashion designers such as Nicky Zimmerman, Akira Isogawa and Karen Walker were granted special permission to use Florence’s designs in their collections. You can now see Florence’s designs in wallpaper, textiles and home furnishings, dinnerware, bedding and bedheads, women’s fashion (clothes, jewellery and accessories), luggage and handbags. Find out more about the range here.
Florence was tragically murdered in her Paddington, Sydney studio in 1977. The murder was never solved and speculation still exists she was killed by serial killer John Wayne Glover. Although friends and employees suggest her killer was known to her as two cups of tea were found near her body, suggesting she was in a meeting with or entertaining them.
Florence was fearless, eccentric and lived an extravagant life worthy of a tale to tell. She lived luxuriously.
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