Florence Broadhurst – Wall Paper Designer

Everyone has people that inspire them. Florence Maud Broadhurst is one of those people for me. Although we grew up at different ends of the earth and a lifetime apart, she has a captivating magic that crosses all boundaries.

Florence Broadhurst

Born in rural Queensland in 1899, she travelled the world and became one of the leading lights and real pioneers of the amazing design we see so prevalent now in Australia. Maybe it is this harsh and rugged landscape that inspires so many Australians to greatness.

Florence Broadhurst

This larger than life personality has an almost mythical status fuelled by mystery and intrigue. As she journeyed around the world she constantly reinvented herself, creating aliases and whole back stories. It was said she even changed her accent! It is almost as if she saw her life as a play with her cast in an ever-changing lead role. Her dreadful death in 1977 only adds to the mystery. She was found murdered in her Sydney showroom. No one has ever been charged but there has been speculation that it was at the hands of the serial killer John Wayne Glover AKA “The Granny Killer”.

"Bobby" Broadhurst - Backstage in 1920's

"Bobby" Broadhurst - Backstage in 1920's

In the 1920’s we meet “Bobby” Broadhurst, a flamboyant young lady who has left the rural life of Queensland to tour Asia with “The Globe Trotters”. They were a cabaret act consisting of singers, comedians, musicians and transvestites!

Florence Broadhurst as Madame Pellier in London

Ad for "Madame Pellier" in London

In the 1930’s Miss Broadhurst heads to London and becomes French couturierMadame Pellier”. With her Haute Couture salon at 65 New Bond St creating beautiful dresses to the London elite.

Today: 65 New Bond St, London

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In the late 1940’s she returned to Australia as an “English artist“.  She claimed she had travelled here to “immortalise the Australian landscape”. She produced some 114 landscapes which were shown in Sydney, Brisbane & Canberra at an exhibition called “Paintings of Australia”.

Lake Canobolas by Florence Broadhurst

In the late 1950’s she became a designer of hand printed wall paper from a tiny studio in Crow’s Nest, Sydney. From this humble beginning grew one of the most innovative and exciting wall paper studios of the 1960’s & 1970’s. Her work was hand drawn and hand printed. The imagery she created was a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colour and pattern from bold oriental patterns to colourful exotic birds. She totally revolutionised the wallpaper industry that was trudging along with dreary conservative designs.

Florence Broadhurst at the Lightbox

The sad thing is that we almost lost this legend to obscurity at her death. In the 1980’s, taste changed and wallpaper went out of vogue. In 2000,  Signature Prints made a huge effort to promote Florence Broadhurst and her work to both the local Australian market as well as overseas. This was perfectly timed with a resurgence of interest globally for the quality wall paper they were offering and the incredible designs created by Florence that they had access to. They rightly pride themselves in helping to revive these fabulous designs

Florence Broadhurst Wallpaper by Signature Prints

To some her work is vulgar or kitsch, while to others she is a definition of innovation and creativity. For me she is all contradiction: genuine talent hiding behind her many masks. Perhaps it was this endless searching for an identity that allowed her to create so much.

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If you want some more:

Read: Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret and Extraordinary Livesby Helen O’Neill

See: Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst

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2 Responses to Florence Broadhurst – Wall Paper Designer

  • Cordie says:

    I love these wallpapers!

  • I’m so pleased that you reposted this because you’ve used images of her designs that I’ve not seen, yet. A few years ago, you couldn’t walk down the high street without seeing a gastropub without the obligatory accent wall in a FB wallpaper and for that reason, I have omitted her wallpaper from my search. That was a mistake, her talents were vast…

    Again, it’s so great to read a well informed post – you know your business!

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