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.