A trip through Victorian India – and beyond

WAG last featured the Bard Graduate Center Gallery this spring, when the hidden gem on Manhattan’s Upper West Side turned the spotlight on a little-known event in New York history.

What a delight it was to find out about – and explore – the storied history of the New York Crystal Palace, which opened in 1853 as the first world’s fair held in the United States

We were back at the Bard gallery on a recent morning to preview its latest exhibition, “John Lockwood Kipling: Arts & Crafts in the Punjab and London,” which again offers a showcase of a specialized topic that certainly merits a wider audience.

John Lockwood Kipling may not have much name recognition – though many would likely recognize his son, writer/poet Rudyard of “Jungle Book” fame – but the elder Kipling was, as Bard describes, “a Renaissance man of the Arts and Crafts movement.”

Lockwood Kipling was born in Yorkshire in 1837 and began his career as a designer and architectural sculptor. Upon visiting the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London – which just happened to be the inspiration behind the event in New York mentioned above – Lockwood Kipling began a lifelong fascination with India, its craftsmanship and artistic traditions.

The exhibition follows Lockwood Kipling through his training and eventual arrival in India in 1865; his work there as teacher, artist, journalist and champion of local skills and traditions; and his return to England and later work, which included illustrations for Rudyard’s books.

It’s is a treasure trove of some 250 objects, including ceramics and drawings, jewelry, furniture, decorative objects and more, all housed within evocative gallery spaces filled with architectural details plus video and sound elements.

The exhibit is curated by Susan Weber, director, Bard Graduate Center, and Julius Bryant, keeper of Word & Image, Victoria and Albert Museum in London and organized by Bard Graduate Center and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It made its debut at the V&A, where it ran Jan. 14 through April 2 of this year.

It was a distinct pleasure to have both Weber and Bryant lead the press-preview tour, their knowledge offering wonderful insight.

As Weber said at the start, “We hope that we do him justice in this first retrospective of his work and career.”

They did, to be sure.

For more, visit bgc.bard.edu/gallery/ and see my article in WAG’s November “Exploring the Arts” issue.

– Mary Shustack

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