NotesThe 'Peacocks' wallpaper fragment was made by Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd in Sydney between 1969-1973.
BROADHURST, FLORENCE MAUD (1899-1977)
Biography by Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator
Florence Broadhurst was a businesswoman, wallpaper and textile designer, painter and performer (singer and banjolele player), born 28 July 1899, at Mungy Station, near Mt Perry in Queensland. Florence, renowned in Australia for her Sydney-based wallpaper business, was one of a number of surviving children of Queensland-born stockman, later grazier and hotelier, William Broadhurst, and Queensland-born, Margaret Ann Broadhurst (nee Crawford). After winning several singing prizes in local eisteddfods, Florence joined the Diggers and performed at the Princess Theatre, Toowoomba in 1918. On 4 December 1922 she left Australia to perform with the Globe Trotters, a musical comedy sextet, in South East Asia and China where she became known by her stage name, Miss Bobby Broadhurst. During this time, Florence also performed with the Broadcasters, the Carlton Follies and the Carlton Sparklers. She received favourable reviews and was often photographed for the English-language newspapers of the day including the Eastern Mail of Delhi and the South China Morning Post. Florence established 'The Broadhurst Academy' in 1926 at 38 Kiangse Road, Shanghai, recruiting teachers and offering tuition in violin, pianoforte, voice production, banjolele (taught by Florence), modern ballroom dancing, classical dancing, musical culture and journalism.
Florence Broadhurst returned to Queensland in July 1927 where she was involved in a fairly serious car accident. In October 1927, she travelled to England aboard the 'Orvieto'. She married Percy Kann and with him, became co-director (as well as designer and dress consultant) of Pellier Ltd., Robes & Modes at 65 New Bond Street, Mayfair, London in the early to mid-1930s. Her son Robert was born to Florence and her second husband Leonard Lloyd Lewis, a diesel engineer. They lived in Banstead, Surrey from 1939 to 1945, moving to Worthing, Sussex in 1945 where she obtained a fishing and slow passenger boat licence.
During WWII, she volunteered with the Australia's Women's Voluntary Services offering hospitality to Australian soldiers abroad. She also became Honorary Secretary to the Art Women's Movement Against Socialisation. She returned to Australia in 1949 where the press assumed she was English. Taking up painting, Florence drove around northern and central Australia reportedly producing around 114 paintings in two years. Solo exhibitions of her 'Paintings of Australia' were held at the David Jones Art Gallery in Sydney and Finney's Art Gallery in Brisbane in 1954 and the Art Society of Canberra gallery in 1955. Her paintings were also exhibited in group exhibitions including the All Nations Club's Ten Guineas and Under exhibition at the David Jones Art Gallery. She became a Foundation Member of the Art Gallery Society of NSW and a member of the Society of Interior Designers of Australia. From the 1950s, Florence became actively involved in charitable and fundraising work.
By the 1970s, her activities and commitments in this area were quite extensive. She was associated with the Royal Art Society, the Sydney Opera House Appeal and the Red Cross among others, and for the United Nations Association of Australia (NSW) International Ball Committee, she was vice-President and Honorary Organiser. In 1964 she designed the festoon decorations for the 'Die Flaudermaus' Opera House Ball.
Locally Broadhurst's reputation hinges on her vibrant personality and her renowned and flamboyant wallpapers. She established Australian (Hand Printed) Wallpapers Pty Ltd in 1959 in premises behind her husband's trucking business, L. Lewis & Son Pty. Ltd., 466 Pacific Highway, St. Leonards, Sydney. With the aid of a small number of production, office and design staff, she set out to design, manufacture and single-handedly market, locally-produced high quality, hand-crafted wallpapers with luxurious, oversized patterns in vivid combinations of psychedelic colours, often on metallic surfaces - the designs inspired by an eclectic range of sources. Brightly coloured peacocks became a hallmark piece, along with bold geometric, stripe and floral designs. Innovations included printing onto metallic surfaces, developing a washable vinyl coating finish and installing a drying rack system that allowed her wallpapers to be produced in large quantities.
Florence moved Australian (Hand Printed) Wallpapers to 12-24 Roylston Street, Paddington on 1 July, 1969. The company then became known as Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd, advertising as ' the only studio of its kind in the world' and 'exporting to America, England, Hawaii, Kuwait, Peru, Norway, Paris, and Oslo'. In 1972, the Australia News and Information Bureau issued a press release titled 'Australian Designer has international reputation'. By the mid 1970s, Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers reportedly contained around 800 designs in 80 different colour ways. With her eyesight and hearing failing, Florence flew to the United Kingdom to attend a Cell Therapy Clinic in 1973 in the hope of improving her health and rejuvenating her body. Four years later, she was brutally murdered on Saturday, 15 October 1977 in her Paddington premises. Her body was not discovered until the morning of Sunday 16 October. The murderer has never been convicted. Florence was cremated at Sydney's Northern Suburbs Crematorium.
Peking Daily News, 9 March, 1924; Shanghai Daily Times, 27 December, 1925, 20 December, 1925; The Statesman, 25 August, 1923; South China Post, 11 February, 1924;The China Press, 21 March, 1926 and 25 April, 1926; the North China Daily News, 2 April, 1926; A.M. 18 May, 1954; Daily Telegraph, 1 April, 1954; Daily Mirror, 22 October, 1956, 3 June, 1958; People, 16 January, 1963; Sun Herald, 16 November, 1969; Press release, 'Australian Designer has International reputation', Australian News and Information Bureau, November 1971; Australian House and Garden, April, 1965; Vogue Living, 1 February - 11 May, 1972 and 15 June - August 14, 1975; Australian House and Garden, October, 1979 and May, 1977; 'A Magnificent Obsession', Harpers Bazaar, October 1984; Florence Broadhurst personal papers, State Library of New South Wales collection; and the following items from the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney: 'Personalisation pays off', Florence Broadhurst Wallpapers Pty Ltd press release of around 1960, wallpaper sample books, photograph album, correspondence and interview notes between family, friends, colleagues and employees of Florence Broadhurst and Powerhouse Museum curators, Ann Proudfoot and Anne-Marie Van de Ven.