Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Florence Broadhurst


Florence met a grisly death.
Florence Broadhurst was murdered. Her death, gruesome and horrible remains an unsolved mystery. Her life story reads like the script for a film or the plot of a book.

Florence Broadhurst's life was one of great plans, pursuits, dreams, ambitions, accomplishments and romances - some of which may have been true.
Many were not. They were the fabrications of a fertile imagination, a creative engineering of facts and circumstance, and the compensations of a fragile, needy psyche.

Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong has brought us the colourful Unfolding Florence: The many Lives of Florence Broadhurst, seeking to explore the truth of an enigmatic eccentric.

Florence was born in 1899, in rural Queensland though she denied both time and place. Winning a singing competition in 1915 gave Florence the opportunity to escape from the land and follow her first passion - performing, in Australia and South East Asia.

After supposedly founding a modern academy of Arts in Shanghai in 1926 she made her way to London and reinvented herself as Madame Pellier of an exclusive Bond Street dress salon.

With her second husband and a growing compendium of half truths exaggerations and lies , she returned to Australia and settled in Sydney becoming a self described 'famous English painter'.

From painting she maneuvered her way into wallpaper design operating out the back of her husband's truck business in an old tin building. Founded in 1959 her hand-printed wall paper business monopolised the quality end of the Australian market by the 1970s, and was also exporting to America, Peru, Paris the Middle east and Norway.

She (credit must go to her design team) created hundreds of unique and luxurious patterns combining fuchsia pinks, lemon yellows, lime greens, vivid oranges, turquoise, blacks, metallic silvers and gold - reflecting the many colours of her flamboyant personality. She called her revolutionary designs Vigorous designs for modern living.

Actress Felicity Price

Florence was actively working until her death at the age of 78.

Florence Broadhurst has been described as a party girl, a celebrity seeker, an opportunistic con-woman, a character belonging to a Peter Carey novel; her work as kitsch, vulgar, innovative, clever, elegant and compelling.
Fashion designer Akiro Isogawa thinks so highly of her talents that he incorporated some of her designs in his Paris collection.

She was a woman of complexity and contradictions, an ability to delude others, of trickery, deceit, and questionable talent; a lonely, cold, eccentric woman of little compassion struggling to live a life of her own imagining.

Because the authenticity of her designs is questionable it is said that it's difficult to assign her a place in Australian cultural history and to estimate her worth but her life and endeavours make a colourful and interesting if somewhat sad story.

A book by Sydney journalist Helen O'Neill, Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives has been a hit locally and was recently released in the US.



  1. love the dress in the 3rd pic down, even if it might have been fashioned from a tablcloth. it was a beautiful one if it was.

    and now i'll have to add that book to my amazon wish list. to buy it after austerity april is over. :-)

  2. So interesting ....I so love the different things you bring to my day.

  3. What a fantastic post. I had no idea who she was and had never heard her name. It was so interesting to follow her life from the age of 16 when she won that competition until she alighted in London. Bond Street is as chic as you can get so she must have been a shrewd businesswoman. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  4. Beautiful wall paper. As in wall paper = art.

    I love it.

    Thank you for your nice comment Delwyn. xoxoo

    Love Renee

  5. Delwin,
    Thank you for the thoughtful remarks you leave at my place. It is always an eye opener when I visit you. I'd not known about this lady; what a character, indeed.

  6. Thanks for the intro to Ms. Broadhurst! Very intriguing story. I'm curious now and off to dig up more...

  7. Fascinating! I diverted in the midst of reading the post and ordered the book.

  8. You only introduce her horrible end... this post is so interesting and informative, it's got me here wanting to know more about this talented artist. Even how she was murdered.
    I love the designs!
    Ciao and thanks for sharing

  9. Good Morning Delwyn,is the sky at your side blue er then blue as well??what a delight to wake up like this!
    I recently learned about her I like off beat characters!

    have a nice day xxx

  10. Hi Julie,
    It could also be an Asian shawl as she was performing in Asian countries.

  11. SarahLulu- it's fun and a pleasure...

  12. Aleksandra - hello to you this beautiful sunny day...

  13. Mr Cuban,
    hello to you - she must have been very charismatic and convincing, also ruthless I fear...

  14. Renee,
    How's things?

    I am very fond of the red floral - it reminds me of a two piece outfit I made when I was 16, bell-bottom hipsters with a midi top - do you remember those? very risqué to show off the midriff flesh in the 60s...

  15. Rosaria, I'm glad I have a few surprises...

  16. Meri and Willow,

    I saw this movie on TV and it was very interestingly made. It had a Florence voice over; documentary interviews; arty snippets, and biography - very well assembled. I would think you may get it on DVD...(Gillian Armstrong being a top Au filmaker - It was put out by Dendy- independent theatre chain in Au)
    My friend has the book so I am about to read it too. I found my info from 3 reviews of the book and film.

  17. Lola, hi
    you really want to know???

    rather awful...

    It is possible that she could have been pressuring to expose some acquaintance over a failed investment scheme, whoever did it knew her and the layout of the wall paper sheds, the whereabouts of the key, and also it appears she was making them tea at the time...

  18. Yes Mona - it's bluer than blue and of course I had to take some photos of the sky on the walk I have just made to Hell's Gates.

    I am now enjoying my soy flat white and a left over hot cross bun minus the cross!!! and I am hotter than hot! but loving talking to my blog friends...

  19. This person is completely new to me....and I love learning new things. Thanks for piquing my interest and supplying background info. I am thrilled by design and am intrigued by the designing mind. I will seek her out.

  20. Pyzahn,
    I'm glad that you found Florence intriguing.
    Her designs are fresh and vibrant.

  21. There was a short story about her on tv a year or two ago...I can't remember the details but it seemed that she has quite a few fans in Japan.
    I wanted to learn more about her after watching the story but I totally forgot...Thank you for reminding me! Now, I need to order that book... The cover is divine!

  22. Tulsa, hi there,
    I agree the cover design is very striking. The reds are my favourites and the Japanese inspired prints too of course...

  23. Tulsa
    I know that Akiro Isogawa resides in Au but his interest and use of her prints in fashion fabrics may have fanned that Japanese following.

  24. So interesting! And I love the tone you set through the post with the different are a wonderful writer! :)

  25. Andrea,
    so nice to see you again,
    I had fun finding images of Florence's that I loved...
    Thank you...

  26. This is the first I've heard of her and I like her fact I once had bedroom wallpaper very similar to one of those you have shown. I thought all the big designers have people working for them doing much of the design sister in law used to design for Vera fabrics and her husband designed for Liz Florence wasn't any different it seems...

  27. Oliag,
    That's right Oliag but I think she claimed that they were 'her' designs. In the film there is actual footage of her being interviewed and setting the interviewer right about how SHE was responsible for every design, but her family says that she had poor eyesight and didn't draw the designs....

  28. Actress Felicity Price is not just classically charming but a great beauty for us to admire:)
    I really love the pattern designs here, I heart the 7th & 8th pictures a lot!
    Thanks dear friend:)

  29. I saw her wallpaper in some Australian style magazine about a year ago - love her designs! Had no idea about the other stuff. Will check out if the book is available.

  30. I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.



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