Also known as
Florence Turner Mofflin,
Florence Turner Greaves,
Encouraged to take up art lessons by her neighbour Julian Ashton, Blake raised money to pay for classes by breeding pups from her pug dog. It wasn't until after her divorce and the death of her father however that she really began to practice her art and in 1925 she studied painting under Henry Tonks at the Slade School of Art in London. It was at this time that she also became friendly with Lucie
painter, was born on 26 October 1873 at Armidale (NSW), one of the three children of William Albert and Annie Mackenzie Greaves. When Florence was about seven the family moved to Braylesford, in Bondi Road, Bondi. Their neighbour Julian Ashton encouraged her to consider art lessons. At first her father objected, but relented after she raised money to pay for classes by breeding pups from her pug dog. It was most probably Ashton who introduced Tom Roberts into the family circle; in the 1890s he painted portraits of both Florence and her mother.
In 1891, fearing that the sea air was damaging Florence’s health, the family moved inland to Burwood. Florence continued with her art. She first exhibited with the Society of Artists in 1896 but not again until 1901, the year before her marriage to William Mofflin. After a European honeymoon, the couple lived in Strathfield, Point Piper, then Macquarie Street, Sydney. The marriage was not happy and no art was exhibited during these years. In 1914 Florence travelled to Europe alone, partly to clarify her feelings. On her return, she divorced her husband.
From 1915 – when she marked her return to exhibiting by showing work in aid of the Australian Artists’ War Fund – Florence Mofflin was a regular exhibitor with the Society of Artists, normally showing watercolours and fan designs. In 1925 her father’s death freed her to travel to London, where she studied at the Slade under Henry Tonks and became friendly with Lucien Pissarro, who gave her a painting. There in 1928 she changed her name by deed-poll to Florence Turner Blake, a reference both to her great-grandparents, Thomas Turner and Barbara Blake, and to the artists she greatly admired, J.M.W. Turner and William Blake. In about 1929 she returned to Sydney and B.J. Waterhouse designed her a house, Menlo, in Fairfax Road, Bellevue Hill. She exhibited three male portraits in the 1930 Archibald Prize exhibition, one being of G.V.F. Mann, recently returned director of the NSW National Gallery.
By the late 1930s Florence was blind in one eye and the sight in the other was deteriorating (although in 1942 she was still able to admire a painting by Hector Gilliland). In 1952 she moved to a nursing home where she remained until her death, on 8 April 1959. The bulk of her substantial estate (which in 1960 represented the income from £54,000) was left to the Art Gallery of NSW. Other than the art which entered the collection then, it was translated into the Florence Turner Blake Bequest for purchasing works of art. This and Tom Roberts’s Portrait of Florence are her most public memorials. Her 1925 sketchbook from the Slade, some loose pencil sketches and an 1894 pen-and-ink drawing are among her papers in the Mitchell Library, transferred there from the gallery. And, in storage at the gallery, two paintings on silk and their preliminary drawings, along with other work – none of which has been on view for decades – record her life as an artist.