Wednesday, May 2

Quite a Broad.



Until recently, I had not known much about Florence Broadhurst, except that she was know for designing gorgeous and groundbreaking wallpaper patterns. It appears she became a bit of a cult figure, and was just as well known for being an eccentric woman from Australia prone to acting out the lifestyles of the myriad of characters and personalities she invented. A starlet, singer, couturier, painter, and design icon. She was also well known for her brutal, and still to this day, unsolved murder in 1977.



Out of circulation for nearly 20 years, her wallpaper patterns and fabric prints are being restored by Signature Prints and are being sold with great popularity, and to such designers as Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney. With these ahead-of-her-time designs, I can see why.

Florence Broadhurst abandoned convention and the rigours of mass production, leaving conservative hand printed wallpapers behind. Instead she created hundreds of unique and luxurious patterns. She combined fuchsia pinks, lemon yellows, lime greens, vivid oranges, turquoise, blacks, metallic silvers and gold, all perfectly matching her own flamboyant personality. Or should I say, personalities?

In the authorized book Florence Broadhurst, Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives, author Helen O'Neill attempts to demystify Florence, the chameleon designer. O'Neill pieces together her life, or her many different lives, and pictures more than 100 of Florence's never before published patterns. I've ordered the book, because it sounds so intriguing, but I also love the cover design! Ah, packaging, I'm a sucker every time...but I digress...




By 1972, her wallpaper collection contained around 800 designs in eighty different colors. Florence Broadhurst worked actively until her death by murder in October 1977 at the age of 78. It is said she may have been murdered by a serial killer, but forensics could never prove it.

"Very rarely are people as wonderful and colorful as Florence Broadhurst," says author O'Neill. "And even more rarely is there the imagery attached to illuminate the story. I think if she were alive today, she'd love to see that people are warming to her as a person and an artist."

There's even a documentary film about her, which for some reason makes me think she might have gotten on well with the two Edies. They'd probably have had lots of their talents, design savvy and eccentricities to talk about.

14 comments:

decor8 said...

This book just arrived in my mailbox today. It was much smaller than I expected, very text heavy (vs. image) but I think I'll dig into it now that I've read your post. I don't know, all the reading freaked me out a little, it was a bit overwhelming to flip through it. I'll venture forth and read, thanks to you Vic!

midcenturyjo said...

It's a fascinating story of a fascinating life. Got it as a xmas present from my best friend (earlier release in Australia). She knows my tastes well. It's amazing what a little reinvention can do for your many careers. I say good for Florence to do what she did when women had no careers let alone a choice. And hooray for a woman who starts a creative career in her older years. Inspiring read for those in the design field.

An Odd Duck said...

Haha, now that you mentioned the Edies, I have to get that documentary. I love Florence Broadhurst.

kbd said...

Could you let us know if it contains enough of her work to warrant the purchase? If decor8 says its text heavy, I'm not too sure I really want to buy the book... I've already read a short article on her life, and as interesting as she was, I'm interested in the visual porn!!

beachbungalow8 said...

this is a fantastic post. thank you for showing me something new!

leigh said...

Excellent post, victoria! I just put the documentary on my netflix list and look forward to reading the book. Will fit in with my "eccentric women's biographies" series! Thanks.

midcenturyjo said...

The book is a biography not a coffee table book. Having said that it does have beautiful pictures of her patterns. It is difficult to get such great images anywhere else as Signature Prints keeps a tight leash on the images and their website doesn't give the big lush feel you get from her work in real life.

Barbara H. said...

Isn't it wonderful to come across someone so remarkably talented!
I was visiting Tara's site over at *Terramia* and noticed Broadhurst's exotic bird illustration, and this re-introduced my interest in her. After some of my own research, I have become somewhat fixated on her mysterious death more than anything. But she is a legend, not only in Australia, but worldwide. Signature Prints, as well as our own infallible interest in her, keep her talented works of art alive and well.

sfgirlbybay said...

My book arrived today, and although there is a lot text (which I am anxious to read), there's an image almost every other page. So Holly's right, there's quite a bit of text, and it's not just a picture book. But I think it's got enough imagery to satisfy us! :)

kbd said...

Thanks for letting us know! I see an online purchase in my near future!

decor8 said...

Yes, there's enough imagery, don't worry about that kbd. It's a great buy, for sure...

And this whole thing about her murder, sheesh, creepy.... I have to read the book now.

Abstract Canvas Art said...

Thanks for sharing such an interesting story. Now I am really looking forward to the book!

MissK said...

if you visit the signature prints website you can order an a4 sized sample for $4AU.The wallpaper has a sticker in the corner which makes a mess when removed but the material has a piece of paper with pins which you just take out.
I went to the Signature Prints warehouse sale a few weeks ago and bought a huge poster size piece of wallpaper,i'm going to make it a little smaller and frame it for above my bedhead.

Sarah said...

This book is great. But if you can get to see the movie you must. It really is fantastic. I think Florence would approve.