Florence Broadhurst with an unfinished portrait of Kate Fitzpatrick, her entry for the 1975 Archibald Prize. Courtesy of Bauer Media.
Florence Broadhurst was renowned for her creativity in numerous endeavours, impassioned approach to her design business, and flamboyant personal style.
Broadhurst was born in 1899 in rural Mount Perry, south-east Queensland. In her twenties, she travelled in India, South-East Asia and China, performing professionally as a singer and dancer. In 1926 she established the Broadhurst Academy in Shanghai to provide tuition in arts including music and dancing.
Broadhurst moved to England in the early 1930s, where she was co-director, designer and dress consultant for Pellier Ltd, Robes & Modes, in Mayfair. Returning to Australia in 1949, she drove around northern and central Australia, and produced over one hundred landscape paintings. Several exhibitions of her work were held in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Broadhurst was a foundation member of the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales and a member of the Society of Interior Designers of Australia.
In 1959, Broadhurst established Australian (Hand Printed) Wallpapers Pty Ltd, which designed and manufactured a wide range of high quality, luxurious wallpapers. Ten years later, the studio location was moved from St Leonards to Roylston Street, Paddington,and renamed Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd.
Hundreds of hand drawn designs in vivid colourways were created for the silk-screened wallpapers. The company was recognised for its diverse designs incorporating latest trends with traditional styles, and various cultural influences. Significantly in the creative process, Broadhurst enthusiastically introduced new products – for example, she imported the newly developed mylar sheeting to print her designs on, and worked with innovative metallic finishes.
The wallpapers – and complementing fabrics – were marketed to clients with a direct, personalised service. During this period, Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers monopolised the Australian market, and exported to numerous clients overseas.
From the mid 1970s, Florence walked from her home at Darling Point to the Paddington studio. She was a keen fund-raiser for charity, a striking personality in Sydney's social scene, and continued to work actively until her death in 1977.
Signature Prints are custodians of the Florence Broadhurst design library, and promote and print the designs. Florence Broadhurst collections are held at the Powerhouse Museum and the State Library of New South Wales. Today Broadhurst designs are highly sought and inspire current day artists and designers including Emma Hack, Akira Isogawa, Nicole Zimmerman, and Kate Spade.
O'Brien, Siobhan, A Life by design: the art and lives of Florence Broadhurst, Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2004
O'Neill, Helen, Florence Broadhurst: her secret and extraordinary lives, Prahan, Hardie Grant Books, 2006
Unfolding Florence: the many lives of Florence Broadhurst / a film by Gillian Armstrong (DVD), 2007
Search Trove for more images, newspaper and journal articles
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, 'Broadhurst, Florence Maud (1899–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
Sound excerpts taken from an interview recorded by Frank Heimans, February 2013 with Paulene Graham, artist, colourist and screen maker at Florence Broadhurst studios, from 1966 to 1970. Interview facilitated by Helen O'Neill, author of Florence Broadhurst: her secret and extraordinary lives.
National Portrait Gallery - The Portraits: Portrait Stories, 'Be bold: Florence Broadhurst'
Powerhouse Museum - Florence Broadhurst Collection
D*Hub Unpacking Design see:
State Library of New South Wales - Broadhurst papers ca.1918-1977 MLMSS 4145