Research project: John Lockwood Kipling

The 19th century Arts and Crafts revival in British India is a fascinating chapter in the international history of art and design. However, John Lockwood Kipling’s career as designer and architectural sculptor, curator and educator, illustrator and journalist, has received little attention.

Drawing, John Lockwood Kipling, 1870, India. Museum no. 0929:56/(IS). © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lockwood Kipling started his career as an architectural sculptor at the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum) in 1861. He then spent a decade teaching at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Mumbai, and a further eighteen years as Principal of the Mayo School of Industrial Arts in Lahore (today Pakistan’s National College of Arts) and Curator of the Lahore Museum. The V&A collections contain drawings by John Lockwood Kipling depicting potters, dyers, jewellery makers and toy-makers, cloth-sellers, metal workers and wood-carvers.

In 2017 the V&A will open an exhibition about John Lockwood Kipling, curated by Julius Bryant (V&A) and Susan Weber (Bard Graduate Centre). It will present the results of a 3-year international research project bringing together scholars from Mumbai, Lahore, London, New York, Vermont and Hawaii.

Lahore Museum workshop and National College of Arts symposium

In 2014 the Museum gained funding from the British Council for research on John Lockwood Kipling’s career as Curator of the Lahore Museum and Principal of Pakistan’s Mayo School of Industrial Art (now National College of Arts, Lahore), and to organise a workshop at the Lahore Museum and symposium at the NCA in 2016. This two year programme, led by Senior Research Fellow and Project Research Coordinator Sandra Kemp, aimed to further work already initiated by the V&A Asian Department in partnership with the Lahore Museum, and with contemporary Pakistani artists and designers. UK participants included the John Lockwood Kipling exhibition co-curator, Julius Bryant (Keeper, V&A Word and Image Department), Rosemary Crill (Senior Curator of Textiles, V&A Asian Department) and Frances Lennard (Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow).

Senior Research Fellow and Project Research Coordinator: Professor Sandra Kemp

Photograph depicting plaster casts of Greco-Buddhist sculptures of the Buddha, unknown photographer, 1880, Pakistan. Museum no. PH.1015-1908. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Professor Sandra Kemp combines Senior Research Fellowships at the V&A and Imperial College London. Her V&A projects include leading collaborative research on the historical role of museums in the imagination of the future, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. She is also co-ordinating V&A research in partnership with the Bard Graduate Center, New York, for the forthcoming exhibition and related publications on John Lockwood Kipling. She has British Council funding for research into the archive and collections of the Lahore Museum, Pakistan and the international legacy of arts and crafts.

For the past three years, Professor Sandra Kemp's research has focussed on three aspects of the exhibition and its related publications: Lockwood Kipling’s curatorship of the Lahore Museum, his journalism over 25 years in India, and his influence on his son, the short story writer and poet, Rudyard Kipling. Details of these research areas can be found below. She is currently organising an international conference at the V&A to accompany the exhibition in 2017.


Lockwood Kipling’s curatorship of the Lahore Museum

Lockwood Kipling’s detailed annual museum reports provide a fascinating commentary on the development of the Museum, and on his conviction that there was ‘philosophical, historical and aesthetic ground for the English in India to do all that lies in their power to foster her indigenous arts.’

The Lahore Museum, Pakistan, 2016. © Lahore Museum

Lockwood Kipling regarded the Lahore Museum an extension of the city, and the preservation of artefacts, art and architecture was high on his agenda. He incorporated the Lahore fort armoury collections into the museum, and himself designed a new carriage in wood and iron with brass ornaments for the famous Zamzama gun that stood outside the Museum.

From his arrival in 1875 until his retirement in 1893, his reports describe the increasing urgency of the race to prevent antiquities, including the newly discovered Gandharan Buddhist sculptures, being taken out of the country on the black market.

Throughout Lockwood Kipling’s tenure, under the heading ‘Use of the collections as examples in the School of Art’, his reports describe how designs, models, moulds and casts of works in the Museum are built into the art school curriculum. This was for the dual purpose of reviving an interest in traditional arts and crafts and of creating new styles and forms through the alignment of contemporary industrial arts with the traditional works in the Museum.

Lockwood Kipling’s personal favourites were often drawn from natural history: ‘I have observed that very little is popularly known of the fishes of the country; many are curious in form and beautiful in colour’, he wrote in 1880: ‘We have made casts from nature of eleven varieties of fish caught in the Ravi, some of large size. This series, when coloured, being absolute facsimiles as to every detail of form, cannot fail to be instructive.’

Lockwood Kipling’s journalism

Away from the daily routine of art school and museum, Lockwood Kipling was a prolific journalist. From his arrival in India in 1865 to his retirement in 1893, he used his newspaper columns to develop his views on society and politics, art school education, museology, curatorship and design practice. ‘The world is slow to recognise how much artists have to do in forming the ideas of society’, he wrote in 1879.

Under the Deodars, book cover illustration by John Lockwood Kipling and Mayo School of Art, 1888, Pakistan. © Private collection

Lockwood Kipling’s views on India are a complex mixture of colonial orthodoxy and independent observation. ‘There really is good deal of difference between India as it is and the India of Astley’s Amphitheatre in the London press,’ he reminds his readers.

This attention to local detail is also manifest in the private collection of Indian street art purchased by Lockwood Kipling over more than 25 years in India. Lockwood draws on these in his newspaper articles, amassing a collection of more than 200 prints, paintings and pencil drawings, which his son donated to the V&A in 1917. The V&A/BGC exhibition will be showing a number of these works for the first time.

Lockwood Kipling’s influence on his son, the writer and poet, Rudyard Kipling

Sources of inspiration from Lockwood Kipling, and from the Indian art school and museum milieu in which his father worked, are amongst the formative influences on Rudyard’s views and writings. Rudyard Kipling used craftsmanship as the principal metaphor for his literary technique throughout his career. Lockwood’s experimentation with book design, and with the interrelation of word and image strongly influenced Rudyard’s writings, as for example, in the Jungle Books (1894 & 1895) and Kim (1901). He also followed his father in depicting an India of railways and factories, and new of new machinery, tools and technologies.

Like his father, Rudyard was a journalist. For seven years in India (1882-1889) he wrote accounts of social, cultural and political life. In addition, he published some of the early fiction that was to make him famous in British-Indian newspapers. In the ‘Preface’ to his collection of stories entitled Life’s Handicap (1888), Rudyard himself acknowledged that his Indian tales: 'had been collected from all places, and all sorts of people, but the very best, my father gave me.’ But their best-known collaboration is Rudyard’s picaresque novel, Kim, where Lockwood has a cameo role as the kindly curator and ‘Keeper of Images’, a ‘Sahib with a white beard’.

Lockwood Kipling sketchbook, 1879-80

Much previous research on Lockwood Kipling has been published by the Kipling Society in its journal (established in 1927), including personal records by the Kipling family.

Professor Sandra Kemp has worked closely with the Society, drawing on its expertise, archives and international networks for the exhibition. One of the exciting new discoveries as part of this joint research has been one of Kipling’s few surviving sketchbooks (dated 1879-80) containing drawings of plants, people, architecture and animals, which will feature in the exhibition.

Her other planned research projects and events include a presentation at the international conference on Kipling in India at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla in association with the Kipling Society in 2016.