Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London at the V&A
Lockwood Kipling might not be as famous as his son Rudyard, but he cuts an equally interesting figure in the world of India under the British Raj. An artist in his own right, the man’s true importance lies in his key role in reshaping British thought on Indian art and design, at a time when England was going through its own Arts and Crafts revolution as a backlash against soulless industrialisation.
The V&A’s exhibition is the first to explore the life and work of Lockwood Kipling in his roles as an artist, teacher, curator and influential figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. He was a man of many talents: a social campaigner for the preservation of Indian crafts, an artist and craftsman whose terracotta panels can still be seen on the exterior of the museum itself, and an illustrator who provided accompanying drawings for his son’s famous works, including The Jungle Book.
The showcase does an admirable job of stitching together the many facets of Lockwood Kipling’s life and work, interweaving them with the story of colonial India and the influence of that country’s art and design in Britain. After opening with an examination of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the display moves seamlessly to studying Kipling’s role in the building of the V&A and his connection with the Pre-Raphaelite circle. The artist’s wife, Alice, was the sister of Edward Burne-Jones’s wife, Georgiana, and the show includes a beautiful upright piano decorated by the Pre-Raphaelite master.
When he was in his late 20s, Kipling moved to India, where he took on principal roles first in art schools in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Lahore. His radical idea was to incorporate local craft traditions into the school syllabus, moving the emphasis away from European art. He sent artefacts and plaster casts back to the Victoria and Albert museum, including a beautiful 18th-century bay window from a house in Lahore.
The exhibition concludes nicely with a room devoted to royal commissions received by Lockwood Kipling to create “Indian” style rooms at Bagshot Park in Surrey and Osborne, Queen Victoria’s summer home on the Isle of Wight. From England to India and back again, this showcase sheds light on a little-known contributor to the Arts and Crafts movement and simultaneously tells the story of a key period of Indian history.
Photos: Kimberley Archer
Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is at the V&A from 14th January until 2nd April 2016, for further information visit here.