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Art + Design Store – Friday Feature – Tobacco

July 15, 2011

In today’s Art + Design Store – Friday Feature column, where I give you all a closer look at one of the artworks in my Art + Design Store, we discover the limited edition letterpress print Tobacco, which featured in my recent solo exhibition: Collected Patterns: The botany of Walter Hill. Part of a series of six letterpress prints, printed on Magnani Incisioni 100% Cotton Rag Paper using rubber-based inks, this black on white work was inspired by the dedicated research of Walter Hill, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens’ first and most significant curator (1855-1881).

I was surprised to learn that Tobacco had been cultivated in Queensland in the 1800’s with the intent to export as a plant of economic value alongside Sugar Cane and Tea. Walter Hill was well connected with agricultural trends and practices all over the world and imported many varieties of Tobacco to test in the Queensland soil and climate. Hill wrote in his 1872 Annual Report of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, “In the last 12 months, distributed to 539 individuals and establishments were 300 papers of Manilla, Havanah and Shiraz tobaccoes.” Each year he reported the number of seedlings and cuttings that were distributed throughout Queensland in an attempt for farmers to grow quality and climate hardy specimens.

There are more than 70 species of tobacco in the plant genus Nicotiana. Originally used as a substance in a religious, shamanic and spiritual context in the Americas, it became popularized as a recreational drug by Europeans arriving in North America. The addictive properties of nicotine created dependance on the drug, so what began as a recreational past-time, eventually became a source of addiction. Little did Walter Hill and other botanists know of this at that time. I’m not aware of Hill partaking of Tobacco recreationally, then again, Hill worked so hard throughout his life, I’m unaware that he took much leisure time anyway! 

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the work, as I had a ball researching and developing it! The prints are part of an edition of 10 and there are still some available in the Store.

Want more Queensland history, keep following on Fridays for the next artwork featured in the Art + Design Store!

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