Loving Florence

Architects’ wives will be familiar with Florence Broadhurst’s distinctive textile and wallpaper designs and patterns.
A talented musician, performer, landscape artist, interior designer and textile artist, Broadhurst toured asia and china in the 20s and set up her own business in Shanghai.

Florence Broadhurst, Shanghai 1925/26

After running her own Academy of Performing Arts in Shanghai, the Broadhurst Academy, Florence reinvented herself in the 1930s in Bond Street, London as Madame Pellier, running a dress salon.
While architects may well be ambivalent about texture and textiles (feminine and ornamental elements that the modernist architect may deem unnecessary and distracting), architects’ wives will love the bold and distinctive patterns that are characteristic of Florence Broadhurst textile designs. In what must be considered one of the great marketing success stories of recent times, Signature Prints bought up the Florence Broadhurst Library (a collection of her designs and silk screens/patterns) a year after Broadhurst’s tragic death in 1977, and the company’s revitalization in the 1990s saw the selective release and marketing of Broadhurst designs.


7 responses to “Loving Florence

  1. If you love the wallpaper, you have to see the rugs!




  2. … and the gloriously illustrated book, which covers the life, the lies, the murder and beyond …


    • Thanks Helen, You should promote the book by giving a paper at this conference coming up on Australian expatriates.
      Hosted by the School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, UQ
      Keynote speakers: Emeritus Professor Ros Pesman, author of Duty Free: Australian Women Abroad and co-editor of Australians in Italy: Contemporary lives and impressions and The Oxford book of Australian travel writing.
      Associate Professor Martin Thomas, ARC Future Fellow, author of The Many Worlds of R.H. Matthews: In Search of the Australian Anthropologist (in press) and The Artificial Horizon: Imagining the Blue Mountains. Award-winning writer/producer of radio documentaries. Martin will speak on the export of images of Aboriginal culture by non-Aboriginal people, focussing on Charles Mountford’s US lecture tours (1944-45) and their enduring impacts.
      If myths of national identity have focused on travel to Australia (‘discovery’, invasion/settlement, transportation, migration), it is worth noting that travel from Australia has been a significant phenomenon for just as long. From Yolngu people accompanying Macassan fisherman to the islands of Indonesia, from those First Fleeters who made the return journey ‘home’ to Europe, to today’s travellers, tourists and expatriates, residents of Australia have left its shores for a multitude of destinations and reasons and in very different roles. Descendants of migrants and refugees, soldiers, nurses, artists, authors, brides, chaperones, utopians, sportspeople, students, teachers, backpackers, cruise-ship travellers, journalists, IT professionals: some have sought to rejoin family, others to escape it; some have sought renown, others have been head-hunted.
      We invite papers that explore the conference theme from a variety of disciplinary perspectives including: auto/biography, travel writing, history, language learning, intercultural communication, sociology, tourism, literary/cultural studies.

      Possible topics might include:
      • analyses of fiction, memoirs, letters, diaries, interviews relating to travel by Australians
      • patterns of travel/writing, configurations of gender and desire at different times, in different places
      • Aboriginal travel to various destinations and its purposes
      • the search for Utopia and its construction by Australians
      • contemporary discourses displacing the ‘cultural cringe’ of the 1960s as the motivation for travel
      • reflections on Australia from an overseas vantage point
      • Australian experiences in non-English speaking territory, language-learning memoirs, the relation between language and cultural identity
      • the extent to which belonging is sought in the destination culture, accommodation to local cultures
      • representations of particular cultures by Australians
      • New Zealand travel/expatriate experiences (this might form a panel broadening the conference theme to Australasians Abroad)

      Abstracts of 250 words or panel proposals (3 x 20 minute papers on a common theme with an abstract for each) with full contact details should be sent by 31 August 2010 to Dr Juliana de Nooy at: j.denooy@uq.edu.au

  3. Isn’t there a movie about Florence Broadhurst? Her work reminds me of Alexander Girard’s patterns.

    I love your blog, by the way. I read it all the time and am sad when you don’t write for a while. You should ask an architect’s wife who is also an architect to write a guest post and share that unique perspective.

    I hope I can write like you one day! You’re very good.

  4. Too kind Jozi – your writing leaves these efforts for dead. And yes not so good at regular posts, I’m sorry. And no excuse, unlike you with a baby to care for. Thanks for the reference to Girard – looked it up and found some lovely images on
    The geometric patterns in particular are very similar aren’t they. Love the american folk style of Girard’s patterns – not dissimilar to some Swedish patterns.
    Gillian Armstrong’s film Unfolding Florence was a documentary about her life and murder. I’ve not seen it but the reviews are quite positive.
    And the timing of the film and the book – Florence Broadhurst
    Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives
    By Helen O’Neill
    must have been terrific for those involved in the business of making her designs available to a wider public via textiles, wallpapers and rugs.
    Thanks for the suggestion re architect’s wife who is also an architect. Know quite a few of those so it will be easy to organise.

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