I could have easily given up all my worldly rupees and even a piece of my soul for some of the artwork on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition, “Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London.” There were no magic carpets here, but it certainly felt like I had flown straight back into Colonial India and to the days of the British Raj.
Lockwood was a man of many trades: museum director and curator, conservationist, artist, writer, art teacher, illustrator, and a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. You’re probably wondering if Lockwood was related to a somewhat more famous Kipling? He was Rudyard’s father and in later years, a main illustrator of his son’s books, notably Jungle Book and Kim.
The exhibition explores Lockwood’s life and showcases some 300 pieces, mostly from the museum’s collection: paintings, photographs, textiles, furniture, and architectural pieces salvaged from demolished buildings. His infatuation with all things Indian began as an adolescent in 1851 when he visited the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. The opulent show displayed some of India’s finest objects, including the Koh-i-Noor, thought to be one of the world’s largest diamonds.
In the early 1860s, Lockwood joined the Victoria and Albert Museum (then called the South Kensington Museum) where he produced various terracotta architectural sculptures for the museum’s facade. In 1865, he left for India with his then pregnant wife Alice Macdonald (they had two children: Rudyard born in 1865; and Alice, born in 1868). Alice Macdonald was a textile artist and part of an artistic and literary circle which had great influence on Lockwood (on display in the exhibition is a piano decorated by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and on which Alice would play).
Lockwood spent ten years in Bombay (now Mumbai) as a professor and principal at the Jeejeebhoy School of Art, before moving to Lahore where he served as principal of the Mayo School of Art. He championed architectural conservation and encouraged his students to document local buildings. Lockwood left his mark on Gothic revival buildings throughout Bombay, including the fountain design at Crawford Market and sculptural architecture of the Victoria Terminus railway station. He also contributed to designs for the amphitheatre, throne and lighting for Queen Victoria’s coronation as Empress of India at the Delhi Durbar in 1877.
During the hot summers, he would escape to cooler Simla, the summer capital of British India. There, he and Alice would immerse themselves in the social scene, and Lockwood would design eclectic costumes for Alice to wear at the Viceregal balls.
Prior to his return to England, Lockwood toured India and documented local craftsmen, becoming a champion for the preservation of Indian arts and crafts in the process.
In his later years, he designed the covers and illustrations for some of Rudyard’s books, and together with Bhai Ram Singh, the sensational Durbar Room in Osborne House. The ceremonial dining room of Queen Victoria’s Isle of Wight home is adorned with exquisite Indian-style plaster work.
Lockwood’s idea of happiness was “a ripe mango in the bath with a cigar.” Mine is to be transported back to India from time to time, and the V & A’s exhibition did just that. The exhibition is on until the 2nd April 2017. Entry is free.
Victoria and Album Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL V & A
Nearest tube: South Kensington Opening Times: Daily: 10.00 – 17.45 Friday: 10.00 – 22.00