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V&A: Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London

Just as you enter the V&A from the Grand Entrance on Cromwell Road, to your left you will come to this wonderful exhibit about the life of John Lockwood Kipling, Father of the famous poet, Rudyard Kipling. It’s not all that often that you get the opportunity to see this kind of Indian heritage, but on display at this exhibition, your senses are spoilt. Historical pictures of India through the Victorian ages, fused together with Lockwood Kipling’s own illustrations, structural designs and photography of his students in Mumbai.

 Exhibition entrance, courtesy of V&A

This exhibition is great for those with keen interests print, architectural design, upholstery, embroidery, textiles (etc) and are in need of inspiration from this rich culture and its prominent history, or those that just want to expand on their knowledge of art history. The exhibit is atmospheric and full of vibrant information, you can easily lose yourself in here for a few hours, it is a fascinating period of history.

Lockwood Kipling was always an active social campaigner for the preservation of Indian arts and crafts, he even brought much of that skill he learnt in India back to England where he worked as an architectural sculptor for the V&A. The terracotta panels created by Lockwood can still be seen on the exterior of the grand V&A building. The perfect place to hold an exhibition about his colourful life.

Exhibition poster in the museum tunnel and exhibition leaflet from H&H visit to V&A

His passion for the preservation of Indian culture and skill is apparent throughout the entire exhibit, and it is wonderful to see techniques that have been used in traditional Indian culture for centuries. By including the work of his students at the Mayo College, Ajmer, the exhibit shows how his passion and knowledge has been transferred onto his students.

Kipling moved to India in 1865 when the country was under British rule, and at the time the economy was quite unstable. He recognised this uncertainty in his students and encouraged them to channel these feelings into their creativity.

In 1851 he trained as a designer and modeller, which gave him the knowledge which he took to India and applied this to the traditional crafts which he learnt and was able to design beautiful Mosques, some which still stand today.

Painting: Entrance to the Mosque of Wazir Khan, by Mohammed Din, 1880, by Mohammed Din. Displayed at the exhibition.

The intricate detailing on the architectural work is magnificent to see and his illustration style is timeless! He has captured a moment via drawing as if it were a photograph. A series of images seen at the exhibition depicts local craftsmen doing their everyday using the said skills making creations which later on Lockwood would go on to do himself.

Illustration: A wood carver from the North West Provinces of British India, by
Lockwood Kipling, 1870. Displayed as a series of natural drawings of craft workers.

 

If you are interested in how artistic crafts and merit is applied throughout different cultures, or just intrigued to see how ancient skills that are ingrained in the wonderful Indian culture have progressed and evolved over the past 200 years, then this exhibition is a must see.

By Amelia Beaumont-Dodd


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