John Lockwood Kipling and the V&A
By Rose Lock
Here at the University of Sussex Special Collections we have got to know John Lockwood Kipling through his papers, especially the wonderful sketches which we are lucky enough to look after on behalf of the National Trust, so we were delighted to hear in 2014 that the V&A were planning an exhibition exploring his life and work.
John Lockwood Kipling is currently most famous as the father of Rudyard, but he is himself a fascinating man. Originally from North Yorkshire, he moved to India in 1865 when he was appointed as a professor of architectural sculpture in the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in what was then called Bombay. He was later appointed the Principal of Mayo School of Arts at Lahore and became curator of the Lahore Museum. As an accomplished artist he made many artworks showing local people and places, with his portraits of Indian craftsmen and soldiers being personal favourites. They convey a strong sense of these being real people, with their personalities shining through to create a real emotional bond with the viewer. His architectural sculpture can still be seen at the V&A, Crawford Market in Bombay, and in the Durbar Room at Osbourne House. This last is one of the projects he worked on with Bhai Ram Singh, one of the Indian artists he mentored through his work at the Mayo School. His recognition of local artists, craftsmen and designers and his support of them through training and apprenticeships was strongly connected to his association with the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain. He died in 1911 and is buried in Tisbury, having returned to England on his retirement in 1893.
We hold over twenty different collections related to the Kipling Family. I am currently cataloguing one of our newest Kipling collections, relating mostly to Alice Kipling, John Lockwood’s daughter who was known as Trix as she was ‘a tricksy little thing’. A staff favourite has always been the Kipling-Blaikie collection, consisting of letters written by Rudyard, Carrie, Elsie and John Kipling to Mrs Mary Blaikie, governess to Elsie and John between 1904 and 1909 and including some wonderful illustrations and a lot of moaning about cold weather and socks.
These and most of the other collections held by Special Collections here at The Keep are owned by University of Sussex, which means we can make decisions on loans within the department. The largest Kipling collection held here, from which the items loaned to the V&A for this exhibition were taken is the Wimpole Hall Archive, owned by the National Trust. These are the papers taken to Wimpole Hall after Rudyard and Carrie Kipling’s deaths by their daughter Elsie Bambridge. She added to this over time with other letters and manuscripts that she bought herself, and with copies she made of items held in other hands. This collection passed with Wimpole Hall itself into the hands of the National Trust in 1976, and was then deposited at Sussex in 1978. Although we can give access to the papers in our reading rooms and help researchers with their enquiries, any decisions on loans, copyright, exhibitions and the like need to be made by the National Trust, who own the papers in this archive. Working with multiple partners always takes longer, as decisions must be checked and permissions verified, but the good relationship we have built with the National Trust, along with their enthusiasm and efficiency, made the process much easier.
The first decision to be made with any exhibition is which items are to be loaned, and in this case, which are to be photographed by our reprographics department for the book and guide that accompany the exhibition. Our online catalogue allowed V&A staff to browse through our Kipling family collections and identify which items related to John Lockwood Kipling they wanted to view at during their visits to our reading rooms. University staff who have built a familiarity with the archive are an invaluable resource at this time, giving advice and suggestion on which sections might be relevant and which items have become our favourites through the years.
The visits from the V&A staff have been lovely, allowing us to delve with them into the wonderful art and life of John Lockwood Kipling. As archive staff we do not get as much time with our collections as we would sometimes like; we are not researchers and the day-to-day business of running an archive service to allow others to access the treasures we hold keeps us very busy.
It is also a great opportunity to look at the conservation and preservation needs of the items that are being loaned. Everything leaving The Keep to go on public view has to be assessed to ensure that it is in a good enough condition to survive exhibition. The National Trust sent us its experts to look closely at the items going on loan. They created reports with recommendations for conservation that needed to take place and also suggestions of the most suitable ways of displaying the beautiful items that have gone into the exhibition. This work was then undertaken and the items carefully packed and taken to the V&A by specialist museum transporters Constantine. We have worked with them several times and are always impressed by their care and skill when taking on these precious items.
Another asset we have gained from this exhibition is the high quality images that were taken for the book and exhibition guide. We kept digital copies of these beautiful photographs which can now be used by ourselves and the National Trust to promote the Wimpole Hall archive and the story and works of this remarkable man. I hope you have enjoyed those that illustrate this blog post and that you’ll visit the V&A’s excellent exhibition or our archives to see more.
Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is on at the V&A until 2 April 2017; for details, see their website, https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/lockwood-kipling-arts-and-crafts-in-the-punjab-and-london