The Victoria and Albert Museum has collaborated with the Bard Graduate Center, New York, to present the first exhibition exploring the life and work of Lockwood Kipling (1837 – 1911). Better known for being the father of renowned writer Rudyard Kipling, Lockwood Kipling was an artist, teacher, curator and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement.
He also had a lasting connection to the V&A starting in the 1860s when Kipling joined the South Kensington Museum (as the V&A was then known) producing decoration for the new V&A buildings. His own likeness can still be seen in a mosaic decoration overlooking the Museum’s John Madejski garden, showing a procession led by the V&A’s first director Henry Cole.
The exhibition begins with some of the Indian objects from the 1851 Great Exhibition which had a profound effect on Lockwood Kipling and were later purchased as part of the founding collections of the V&A. The objects are some wonderful examples of Indian craftsmanship including a bracelet of enamelled gold set with diamonds, a purple woven silk prayer carpet and a sword and helmet.
.Kipling left London for India in 1865, spending ten years in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) to teach at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art, then moving to Lahore, the capital of the Punjab, as Principal of the new Mayo School of Art (today Pakistan’s National College of Arts) and curator of the adjoining museum.
It was during this time that Kipling realised that the ancient Indian craft traditions were in decline and he decided to observe, collect and record these skills. Kipling’s portrait drawings of craftsmen and cotton workers in the exhibition confirm his interest in the Arts and Crafts movement which was a response to large scale industrialization.
Kipling was also concerned with architectural conservation and encouraged his students to document local buildings; the exhibition includes their painted studies of monuments and mosques. He also salvaged architectural features and contemporary objects such as detailed carved doors, windows and screens both for the Lahore museum and for the V&A’s collections. Several of these have been conserved for the exhibition; a late 18th century bay window from a merchant’s house and a late 19th century plaster cast of a 1st -2nd century bust of Buddha are displayed for the first time in 60 years.
In 1893 Lockwood Kipling retired from his position in Lahore and moved home to England where Lockwood contributed to Rudyard’s stories about India both with his recollections and illustrating some of the stories The First and The Second Jungle Book and Kim.
The exhibition concludes with furniture and design relating to royal commissions that Kipling worked on with his former student, the architect Bhai Ram Singh: the Indian billiard room for the Duke of Connaught at Bagshot Park in Surrey and the Durbar Hall at Osborne. The rooms will be represented through film and original designs and furniture, including a pair of standing lamps and a pair of fire dogs designed for Osborne and a chair designed for Bagshot Park, recently acquired into the V&A’s collections.
This fascinating free exhibition offers considerable insights into Lockwood Kipling career and in some ways looks at the ways they may have influenced his son. It is very appropriate that the exhibition is taking place at the V&A and reflects Kipling’s connection with the institution from when it was called the South Kensington Museum. The exhibition also acknowledges the work of Lockwood Kipling’s wife, Alice Macdonald and her connection the Arts and Crafts featuring a large panel that she embroidered for Red House, the home of Arts and Crafts campaigner William Morris.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Entry to the Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London exhibition at the V&A is free.
For more information , visit the V & A website here
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