Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives
Author: Helen O’Neill
Publisher: Chronicle, 2007
Rating: Strong Recommend*
"Beautiful on the outside and just as intriguing inside, this book is hard to resist from the moment you pick it up..."(This is from our guest tester, Angie., who won this book with her great comment in this post. Thanks, Angie!)
Favorite Broadhurst quote: "I was once asked 'How do you know you are living?' and I said 'I create, so I know I am living.'"
Favorite Broadhurst paper: Horses Stampede, for it’s whimsy and total disregard for practicality.
"For the highly visual people this book is overflowing with colour images of many of Broadhursts works, highlighted by brief captions explaining the provenance of each piece. As the book explains however, there is much more to Florence Broadhursts mysterious life than fabulous wallpaper. From her childhood in rural Australia to her days as a cabaret style performer in Asia this woman had an incredible and varied life, it’s no wonder she had so much to draw from when creating her designs.
This book does a good job of giving a factual recount of these events in chronological order, with subtle undertones high regard from the author. Particularly enjoyable are the personal interviews with Broadhursts family and previous employees, as well as the peppering of quotes from Broadhurst herself.
Although the woman was often and understandably perceived as a compulsive liar and blatant opportunist, through these interviews it’s easy to see another side of her. That of a charismatic business savvy woman who molded her life to be whatever she wanted at the time, with total disregard for the opinions of those around her or for the societal constraints of the time. A pinch of that kind of attitude is inspiring. Broadhurst may have had a bit more than a pinch though.
There is much controversy surrounding the question of who actually rendered the hundreds of Broadhurst prints, an issue the author attacks from many angles. Although the book does not come to a firm conclusion, as a reader I believe that whether she hand drew them herself or simply directed her artists, it does not diminish the foresight and stylistic direction she gave her team. Undoubtedly she had an incredibly skilled and talented artistic base she worked with, as is often the case in many design houses, although the head of the house will receive the most recognition.
Broadhursts life came to an abrupt end when she was brutally murdered in her studio. Throughout the book the author revisits this fact and ponders the many facts, but in the end of the book, just as in her life, there is no major revelation, and the murder is unresolved.
An enjoyable quick read, and a beautiful resource for those interested in pattern design. The history recounted of Broadhurst's crazy lifetime paints a picture vivid enough to rival her brightest paper design."
- Angie J. (an AT reader and volunteer tester)