One of the greatest things about London is that it’s full of whatever you fancy. You can do anything that you like, or are interested in, in this massive city. For me, obviously, it’s museums – I just love them. I enjoy strolling around and taking in all of these fascinating objects that tell us something different and interesting about the world. What can be difficult, however, is going to these places when you work during the week – but, hold on a moment… some of these amazing museums open late one night a week! The V&A, low and behold, is open every Friday until 10.00 pm. That’s so… late! And with there being no work on a Saturday, well, that’s just even better.

I found this information out excitedly when I realised the Lockwood Kipling exhibition was coming to its end next week and rushed to go and see it. Of course, most people have heard of Rudyard Kipling, the man famed forever for writing The Jungle Book (1894); this exhibition was not about him. This exhibition was about his father: Lockwood. Lockwood, born in North Yorkshire in 1837, grew up to be an illustrator, sculptor, teacher, and curator. Kipling’s interest in design was sparked by the first world exhibition held in London in 1851. This display of manufactured products from across the globe inspired Kipling to study design. Eventually he moved to Bombay (modern-day Mumbai) with his family to teach at the Jeejeebhoy School of Art. At the beginning of the 1870s Kipling was commissioned by the government to tour through parts of India and sketch craftsman, as well as other points of interest in the specified region.

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Rudyard Kipling and John Lockwood Kipling

 As Kipling grew older his career    progressed, he also illustrated many of his son’s novels, such as the first edition of The Jungle Book, and Kim (1901). Lockwood Kipling died in 1911. It is this fascinating life that the exhibition focuses on.

The first thing you see of the entrance of the exhibition are two columns with Kipling’s name displayed on them, behind maps of India. Behind these are an introductory enclave with a video. The exhibition space is quite dark but huge screens are placed throughout to display videos of moving busy trains, brightly coloured materials, stunning mosques, etc. There was so much to take in, and so many intricate objects on display.

One of my favourite objects was a small wooden toy monkey that would have been pulled along by a child. The monkey itself was dark blue, with wide eyes, and grinning excitedly as it held, what looked like, a coconut. There were so many tapestries, and fine fabrics hanging on the walls, you had to crane your neck to see them all.

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Image courtesy of  V&A

The exhibition itself was laid out by location, for example Kipling’s early life in Britain, and his time spent in the Punjab. The traditional method of Koftgari (inlaying different types of metals into one another) was banned in India 1849 after the British annexed the Punjab, but there were some interesting examples of this, such as a large shield.

A series of plates was on display that featured Kipling’s sketches of Our Intimate Enemies as well as his doodles in books. I especially enjoyed his doodle of two people (one a monk or priest) drawing on a copy of Montaigne’s essays (who is a favourite philosopher of mine) – it made me laugh as the religious figure glanced jealously at the other man’s drawings.

Photographs weren’t allowed in this exhibition but it was full of some seriously amazing objects – if you have a chance to visit before it ends on Sunday 2nd April then you definitely should, entrance is free and all other information can be found here. The Garden Café also serves some good food!

 On a completely different subject, if I ever had sons I will seriously be considering both the names Lockwood and Rudyard.

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2 thoughts on “Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London

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