Saturday, January 14, 2017

Of Beasts and Men

Many of us have enjoyed the book, songs, movie and TV serials in various adaptations of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book". Mowgli, the child raised in the jungle by animals; Baloo the bear; Bagheera, the black panther; Kaa, the python; and of course Sher Khan, the tiger; are all characters familiar to us.

But I did not know much about the father of Rudyard Kipling, John Lockwood Kipling, an architectural sculptor (at the Victoria & Albert Museum), curator, illustrator and educator, who taught at the J J School of Art, Mumbai and was Principal at the Mayo School of Industrial Art (now Pakistan's National College of Arts). I first got to see his work from a chance view of media coverage about a forthcoming exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum on his works. And that drew me to learn more about this interesting combination

John Lockwood Kipling illustrated the book covers of many of his son's books, like "Under the Deodhars" (seen alongside), and of course, "The Jungle Book". The works were a unique combination of drawings of Indian men, women, beasts, along with western practices of stylised alphabets, line drawings, compositions and sensibilities.

The Jungle Book, and The Second Jungle Book,
with original illustrations
by John Lockwood Kipling (from

For various editions of "The Jungle Book", there were more book covers, illustrations in chapters, and stylised alphabets at the beginning of chapters, like this "R" from the first page of a chapter "The Undertakers":

Illustration for a "Chapter capital" (!895)

There were fantasy drawings too, like this wonderful composition about Mowgli leaving the jungle. There is a large number of illustrations in other publications by John Lockwood Kipling too, like "Beast and man in India: A popular sketch of Indian animals in their relations with the people (1891) and "Tales of the Punjab, told by the people" (1891) both published by MacMillan and Co., London. Both father and son seem to have influenced each other greatly in their books and illustrations. 

Wood carver at Shimla,
pencil and ink drawing, 1970
Both seem to have been keen observers and listeners as well, of common people, their occupations, characters in epics and folk tales. 

This drawing was part of a project, where John Lockwood Kipling was commissioned by the government to tour the North India provinces, and make sketches of craftsmen. 

Thanks to this initiative by the government of the times, and the talent of Lockwood Kipling, we have a wealth of information on dresses, tools and occupations of those times, and all captured in beautiful detail.

I do think with so many of the traditional arts and crafts dying out in
India, such a project in current times would be a great idea too.