Years ahead of her time, the complex, eccentric and talented Florence Broadhurst was born in rural Queensland, Australia in 1899. By the time of her death in 1977 Broadhurst had lived and worked in Australia, Asia, and England; performed professionally on stage; been befriended by royalty; exhibited her paintings; and started an internationally successful wallpaper company whose success was based upon her own designs.
After spending more than a decade in the United Kingdom, Broadhurst returned to Australia and settled in Sydney where she started painting enthusiastically and prolifically. Transforming her creative talent into a business opportunity, she started a revolutionary wallpaper business in 1959, creating hundreds of unique and luxurious patterns with rich and vibrant colours all perfectly matching her flamboyant personality.
From the mid 19th century, wallpapers used in Australia had predominantly been imported from Britain, but also from France, Canada and America. Although some effort was made at the beginning of the 20th century to manufacture papers in Australia (for example Morrison’s and Gilkes & Co), few were produced and few survive today. In 1959 Florence Broadhurst decided to buck the trend.
Turning 60, she established Australian (Hand- Printed) Wallpapers (renamed Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd in 1969). It is this, her final design and production venture, as well her reputation as a colourful Sydney personality with an A-list of prestigious clients, and her still-unresolved death in 1977, for which Broadhurst is best remembered today.
In its day, Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers was described as ‘the only studio of its kind in the world’.1 Through her vigorously modern wallpaper designs, Broadhurst became part of a wave of retailers, artists, designers and architects who radically changed Australian attitudes to design in the 1960s and 70s. Others include retailer Marion Hall Best, architect Harry Seidler (Australia Square completed 1967), industrial designer Gordon Andrews (Australia’s new decimal currency notes of 1966) and graphic designer Martin Sharp (1960s psychedelic posters).
the mid 1960s, her company monopolised the Australian market and started exporting to America, Peru, Paris, the Middle East and Norway. She continued to work actively until her death in 1977 at the age of 78.
Having been left to languish for several years after her death, Florence’s genius is now undergoing a major revival. Her desighns are being reprinted in limited editions and to have an original Broadhurst’ is the delight of designer chic.